By Angela Barbuti
Chef Masaharu Morimoto is most widely recognized for being an Iron Chef. So much so that people are known to start “screaming and giggling” when they see him around town. You don’t have to travel far to catch a glimpse of the celebrity chef—just visit Morimoto restaurant in the Meatpacking District and sit at the sushi bar. Between sips of sake and tastes of Crispy Rock Shrimp Tempura, you can see the Japanese native and sushi master behind his exposition kitchen.
On Nov. 5, chef Morimoto will be at New Taste 2012, sponsored by New York magazine.
How do you describe your cooking style?
Utilizing Japanese cooking techniques with not only Japanese ingredients, but also Western ones. I hate to call it “fusion,” but want to call it “global cuisine.”
What is a typical day like for you?
I wake up early and walk in the city as exercise. Then in the afternoon I go to my restaurant.
Your restaurant is known for its tasting menu, omakase, which frequently changes. Where do your menu ideas come from?
I usually think about seasonal ingredients and then come up with ideas using them. For Japanese cuisine, seasonality is very important. Even for fish—the same fish tastes different depending on the season.
Are you recognized in Manhattan now that you were on Iron Chef?
As I mentioned, I walk a lot in the city. Some people do recognize me as an Iron Chef and wave at me or sometimes ask me to take pictures with them. Some people’s reactions are funny, screaming and giggling.
Of all the food battles you participated in on the show, which one was the most memorable?
I should say it was the Tofu Battle because I got the perfect score.
What do you think of the fact that chefs are now celebrities in our culture?
I think TV is one of the reasons. Chefs appear on TV more and more and are treated just like other celebrities.
Morimoto plays Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell music. How would you describe the atmosphere you are trying to create there?
I want to create an atmosphere where customers enjoy our food—but each Morimoto restaurant has a different atmosphere depending on the location. For example, Morimoto New York plays music relatively loud because that’s what the customers expect in the Meatpacking District.
Are you planning on opening more restaurants?
A new restaurant, Tribeca Canvas, will open in early November in Tribeca. More to come in the next year.
You have some unique-sounding names for your dishes. Describe “Duck, Duck, Duck” and “Angry Chicken.”
Duck, Duck, Duck is Morimoto Peking duck, foie gras croissant, and duck egg. Angry Chicken is very hot as if the chicken was angry.
If you had to take your wife out to dinner in New York City, where would you go?
A nice four-star restaurant. I’ve already taken her to Daniel and Eleven Madison, so next will be … but actually, my wife and I like eating comfortably at home.
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?
Ask Andrew Zimmerman!
Morimoto is at 88 Tenth Ave.
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