Captivating us all as the Iron Chef from the Japanese TV cooking show Iron Chef, as well as the spinoff Iron Chef America, Chef Masaharu Morimoto is known for his unique style of cooking and food presentation. Born in Hiroshima, Japan, Morimoto had the privilege of receiving practical training in Sushi and Kaiseki – traditional multi-course Japanese dinner and techniques – in Hiroshima. In 1980, Morimoto opened his own restaurant in Hiroshima specializing in Japanese cuisine with Western influences with hopes of one day earning high honors in the culinary world. To Chef Masaharu Morimoto Michelin stars are a lifelong dream come true.
View this post on Instagram
On the cutting edge of Japanese and Western cuisine and highly influenced by Western cooking techniques, Morimoto decided to plan a trip traveling around the United States. In 1985, he sold his restaurant in Hiroshima and traveled the U.S.. During his time he was even further influenced by the Western culture and soon developed a new vision for a style of fusion cuisine. With a passion for food creation and a now clear vision, he moved to New York permanently where he established a new life, working for some of the most prestigious, luxurious restaurants in the city (1). He had the opportunity of being the executive chef at the Sony Club as well as the head chef for the highly exclusive Nobu.
During his time at Nobu, he got his start on the popular television show Iron Chef. Morimoto was chosen as the new Iron Chef for his unique style of fusion cooking and international experience. He wore a signature silver and red trim costume with the Japanese and American flags tied together displayed on the back. He quickly gained recognition and popularity on the show for his unique dishes and became known as the chef whose dishes would ‘come out of left field’ surprising everyone with his creativity each time. His official win/loss/tie record was 16-7-1.
In the Iron Chef America: Battle of the Masters, Morimoto was one of only two original Iron Chef to appear on Iron Chef America. During this series, he lost two battles against American Iron Chefs Wolfgang Puck and Mario Batali, but won a tag team battle with his chef partner Bobby Flay again Sakai and Batali. He went on to appear on Iron Chef America two more times after that, and on his third year published his first cookbook Morimoto: The Art of New Japanese Cooking.
His cookbook is described as “global cooking for the 21st century”. It includes roots in Japanese cooking with multi-cultural influences. The book is a colorful example of blended flavors, ingredients, techniques, and beautiful dishes all passed down from the Iron Chef himself.
His second cookbook, released in 2016, title Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking, was his second gift to all cooking and food enthusiasts. He understands that traditional Japanese cooking comes with a bit of intimidation to those who have never attempted it before. However, Chef Morimoto set out to change that.
His second cookbook is full of flavorful, beautiful, and surprisingly simple at-home Japanese cooking recipes. In this cookbook he reveals the magic of Japanese cooking, that with only half a dozen ingredients in your pantry, you can unlock hundreds of recipes, variations, and flavors, and empowers readers to attempt their own take on Japanese dishes themselves.
View this post on Instagram
A few months after his Iron Chef experience, he decided to leave Nobu and set out to open his own restaurant in Philadelphia in collaboration with Starr Restaurants. He opened his own restaurant, Morimoto, in Philadelphia in 2001. The restaurant featured ancient Japanese cooking style with Western influence. With a perfect blend of Eastern and Western traditions, guests were able to fully experience authentic Japanese style cooking with incredible presentation and flavor influences.
As the restaurant gained quick popularity, he decided to expand the Morimoto name. The first expansion of his infamous restaurant would be in New York City (2). In collaboration with Groto Design Group, Tadao Ando took on the privilege of designing the interior of the new Morimoto restaurant. Highly acclaimed architect, Tadao Ando, kept the interior urban industrial, which involved tastefully exposed concrete, one of his signature design elements.
But it didn’t stop there. Morimoto quickly expanded, opening locations around the world including cities like Kyoto, Las Vegas, Maui, Doha, Boca Raton, Mumbai, and many more. What started out as a trip around the United States soon ignited this passion that was coming to life right in front of him. With years of incredibly hard work, his dream became a reality, experienced by all, all around the world.
Throughout his career, Chef Masaharu Morimoto collected many awards, much recognition, and of course, a very hungry fan base. Is Morimoto restaurant in Tokyo was the first of his restaurants to receive a Michelin star in 2008. He also received awards from San Pellegrino’s ‘Top 100 Restaurants in the World’, a James Beard Foundation award for ‘Outstanding Restaurant Design’ for his Morimoto New York location design in collaboration with Tadao Ando, and Food & Wine magazines ‘Best U.S. Restaurant Openings’ for his Napa location.
From Iron Chef to Iron Chef America, from Morimoto and many other expansions and spin-off restaurants, Chef Masaharu Morimoto continues to amaze fans, food critics, and the world. With his incredibly vast cooking experience, highly sensitive taste pallet, and incredible instinct for flavor and food, he throws his consumers right into the heartbeat of Japan with a twist of something Western. Much like his original costume on Iron Chef where he tied together the Japanese and American flags, Chef Masaharu Morimoto ties Japanese and American flavor influences together to create something beautiful, a work of art.
Aside from his brilliant food creations, what makes Chef Morimoto so incredibly renowned is his extremely intricate food presentations and ambiance he creates in each of his restaurants. He is the epitome of fine dining, and is a chef many look up to all around the world. As he continues to do what he does best, he still works to pass the ladder down to others. By encouraging, inspiring, and teaching, he is one of the few highly acclaimed chefs to pass down their secrets in cookbooks for all.