By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Media Services
May 1, 2012
Born in Hiroshima, Japan, Masaharu Morimoto is recognizable to “Iron Chef” fans as the serious chef who consistently creates artistic and delicious Asian fusion dishes. A star of the Japanese cooking competition that spawned “Iron Chef America,” Morimoto has been a dominant presence on both shows. The 56-year-old chef and restaurateur opened his first restaurant in Japan in 1980, before moving to the United States five years later. He owns restaurants in New York, Tokyo and Mumbai, has a line of sake and beer and is the author of “Morimoto: The New Art of Japanese Cooking.” A resident of New York City for more than 25 years, Morimoto says he dines out often and has “eaten many great meals.” You may follow him on Twitter @Chef_morimoto.
Q. Where have you eaten the best street food?
A. In Osaka, Japan, where I ate takoyaki — a popular Japanese street food. It’s savory pancake balls that have bits of octopus and some vegetables topped with special sauce. You can eat the Morimoto version of takoyaki in my restaurants. Instead of octopus, my takoyaki has either abalone or lobster.
Q. Have you had a memorable meal on a flight?
A. I don’t eat anything on an airplane.
Q. To travelers who are wary of trying food they’ve never eaten before, what do you recommend?
A. Wherever they go, just ask the local people for the best food. Don’t rely on a guidebook.
Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?
A. Hawaii. I travel a lot for business, so I feel like I cannot make any recommendation as a vacation destination, apart from Hawaii.
Q. To someone who was going to Hawaii for the first time, what would you recommend that they do during their visit?
A. Go to the beach and play golf. And dine at Morimoto Waikiki!
Q. Did you travel a lot when you were a child?
A. My family was very poor, so I don’t have any memories of traveling as a child.
Q. Where are your favorite weekend getaways?
A. Chefs work Saturdays and Sundays, so I don’t have a weekend getaway as there’s no weekend for our industry.
Q. Do you collect souvenirs when you’re traveling?
A. No, because if I bought souvenirs every time I go on a trip, my apartment would be filled with them!
Q. What is your favorite type of hotel?
A. I like the small traditional inns in Kyoto, Japan.
Q. What are your five favorite cities?
A. New York, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Hiroshima and Hakone.
Q. Where have you traveled to that most reminded you of home?
A. Home is very unique to me, so nowhere.
Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?
A. The moon.
Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?
A. My knives, because when I travel it’s for work!
Q. What would be your dream/fantasy trip?
A. A luxury world trip cruise without my iPhone so there would be no emails or phone calls.
Q. What is your guilty pleasure when you’re on the road?
A. Actually, when I’m on the road, I wake up early and walk a lot. I’m very healthy. But when I come back home, I am more tempted by guilty pleasures, such as eating too many sweets and sleeping a lot.
Q. What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?
A. I don’t actually do any research normally before trips.
© 2012 JAE-HA KIM
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