Masaharu Morimoto returns to ‘Iron Chef’

Chef Masaharu Morimoto says at home, he lets his wife cook.

Chef Masaharu Morimoto says at home, he lets his wife cook. “She’s the most trusted chef to me,” he tells Yahoo Life. (Photo: Masaharu Morimoto, designed by Quinn Lemmers)

Because food connects us all, Yahoo Life is serving up a roundtable discussion with people who are passionate about what’s on their menu at Polisheda row about food.

Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s name has become synonymous with best-in-class Japanese cuisine. Today, his accolades include ownership of nearly 20 restaurants worldwide, numerous cookbooks, and of course, the title of Iron Chefwhich he has held since the late 90s.

For more than 20 years, Morimoto has inspired generations of chefs as he cooks on television. But it was a group of anonymous sushi chefs who first inspired him to culinary greatness.

“On special occasions, my family would go out to dinner at a sushi restaurant in my hometown,” she tells Yahoo Life. “I remember as a young boy, I would adore the sushi chefs who worked quietly and surely behind the counter.”

Morimoto says these chefs made such an impression on him during his childhood that without them, he’s not sure what his own food journey would look like today. “This is what inspired me to study the art of sushi making and eventually open my first restaurant at the age of 24,” he says. “Without their inspiration, who knows if I would have pursued the art of sushi making.”

Thanks to these sushi chefs, Morimoto’s name has become synonymous with fine Japanese cuisine. “I’m very proud of it,” he says. “Everything happened naturally, but with a lot of hard work.”

The “hard work” Morimoto has put into his career is evident, as is his passion for his favorite food of making—and eating—sushi. A look at the chef’s favorite dish to make himself shows the attention to detail he puts into everything he cooks.

“My favorite dish would be a meal that I cook myself,” says the 67-year-old chef. “I would pick Koshihikari rice from Uonuma (a city in Niigata Prefecture, Japan) and pick the grains piece by piece so that all the pieces are similar in size, which would make the rice cook evenly.”

“Then I would make miso soup using dashi (Japanese stock), which I would make from scratch, and homemade miso that I would start fermenting,” she adds. “It would be accompanied by pickled vegetables made in my nukadoko (a pickled bed of fermented rice bran) and akami tuna sashimi with fresh 3-year-old wasabi from Shizuoka (a city in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan).

In each Morimoto plate craftsmanship, each step is completed with the utmost care. So when he steps away from the kitchen, who does he trust to devote the same level of attention to detail? An expert chef comes to mind.

“I don’t cook at home — my wife does,” he says. “She is the most reliable chef for me.” Morimoto has been married to his wife Keiko Morimoto since 1970. While the two share a rather private relationship for a chef of his level of celebrity, Morimoto reminisces about the early days of their marriage, sharing meals together at a favorite restaurant city’s.

“Rakucho in Hiroshima, Japan — I think they have the best okonomiyaki (a savory Japanese pancake),” says Master the art of Japanese home cooking author. “When my wife and I were newly married, we had a restaurant in Hiroshima and we used to go to Rakucho after our service. It was the only restaurant we looked forward to after a long day.”

From a perfect meal after a long day of hard work, to his own experiences in the restaurant industry, Morimoto says, “cooking and eating always make [him] cheerful.” Especially in recent years amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic has been very tough on the restaurant industry, but it has made me very happy to see how quickly the industry has come together to support each other and shown a tremendous amount of creativity to continue serving our guests,” he says. “I’m so proud to be a part of this industry.”

“It reminded us of our strengths and taught our team how to quickly adapt our business model to better serve our guests,” he adds. “Now that things are back to normal – or should I say ‘the new normal’ – I’m excited about what lies ahead.”

Since becoming one Iron Chef first in the original Japanese show and later in competition Iron Chef America, Morimoto’s career has grown, in part due to the fame he has gained from his television appearances. Now, he’s returning to the franchise, this time as a judge on the new one Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend streaming now on Netflix.

“It is an honor to return Iron Chefthis time in the judge’s seat,” Morimoto says. “I’m very grateful to have been in both Iron Chef and Iron Chef America years ago — it taught me another level of focus while dealing with stress and pressure.”

Morimoto credits his time competing on Iron Chef with inspiring a new level of creativity in his dishes, something he hopes to pass on as a mentor to a new generation of young chefs.

“I am very proud to be called Iron Chef Morimoto and I feel a certain responsibility when people call me that,” he says. “I’ve also really enjoyed working with so many great chefs that I can now call my friends.”

Wellness, parenting, body image and more: Find out WHERE behind the hoo with the Yahoo Life newsletter. Register here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.