A well traveled chef with restaurants all over the world, Chef Morimoto is a connoisseur of blending Japanese cuisine with American taste buds. He is well known all over the world especially after becoming an Iron Chef on the popular Japanese cooking show. We had the pleasure of discussing his journey as a chef and how art has affected his work.
Would you please introduce yourself and briefly talk about your background as a chef?
My name is Chef Masaharu Morimoto. My story of how I became a Chef is an interesting one. After a shoulder injury ended my career as a baseball catcher in Japan, I began studying sushi in my hometown of Hiroshima. I quickly grasped the technique of sushi making. At age 24, opened my first restaurant. I then moved to America to expand my culinary repertoire and explore opportunities. I saw a lot of possibilities for a cuisine that would combine the best of both cultures. I now have many restaurants across the world and am excited to bring my cuisine to new audiences.
Was it difficult to decide to pursue a career in cuisine?
Yes, there were times when pursuing a career in cuisine felt very challenging. It requires focus, drive, and dedication. There is a lot of hard work that goes into mastering your skills. In addition to mastering skills, you constantly have to learn new ones and adapt to industry trends.
Would you tell us about your favorite memory working as a chef?
I have many, but one of my favorites has been participating in Iron Chef and Iron Chef America. It taught me another level of focus while dealing with stress and pressure. I was able to use the fierce competition to inspire a new level of creativity with my dishes. Being on TV as much as I have during my career has helped open many doors of opportunity.
Does art impact your work?
Yes, art impacts my work on many levels. I draw inspiration from various artwork around me. If you go to any of my restaurants, art is a focal point and profoundly impacts the atmosphere. I feel very inspired to work when beautiful artwork is around me. My recently opened Momoson Wynwood location is in the arts district of Miami.
Do you see your work as an artform?
I do. The art of cooking is so unique, and that’s why I love it. I like to cook using ingredients that are in season, every season, and choosing the cooking method that best suits the ingredients at that time of year. I believe that cooking is an artistic process. For me, it’s all about using the best ingredients possible and preparing them with respect and passion for creating a delicious dish.
In your eyes, what artwork portrays the perfect meal? Or what artist portrays the most decadent foods?
I believe the artwork that portrays the perfect meal includes simple, individual pieces that create something complex. Like cooking, every single ingredient plays a role in creating something great. Artwork feels the same way to me.
What’s one artwork that you think everyone should know about?
This will lead into my next answer, but I believe everyone should know about the beautiful large-scale waterfall paintings done by Hiroshi Senju.
As someone with discerning taste, who is your favorite artist?
My favorite artist is Hiroshi Senju. He is a wonderful Japanese Nihonga painter. He has done a few pieces for myself as well as pieces for my restaurants. I am honored to have his artwork.
How do you approach blending Japanese and American culture into your food?
I try to take a very simple approach. I think many Americans were a bit intimidated by Japanese cuisine at first. But my menus at all my restaurants show there is the perfect Japanese dish for any taste palate. I continue to find new dishes that I enjoy bringing to my guests. That’s the great thing about food – the options are endless for new creation.
How long did it take you to develop a unique style? Was this an important step in your career?
Yes, it was an important step. It took many years to find a style that I felt was authentically mine. After traveling the world and experiencing different cultures, I created a style that felt genuine to me while also drawing inspiration from those around me.
What do you see yourself doing in the next 5 or 10 years?
I’ve enjoyed slowing down a bit throughout the pandemic, spending time at home with my wife. Normally I am constantly traveling to my various restaurants around the world. I was able to center my focus on the business operations while also working on new ideas for upcoming products, restaurants, and collaborations. With that in mind, I am eager to get back into traveling and visiting my restaurants, and explore new places. I am excited to see what the next 5 to 10 years will bring.
What is your dream project?
This sounds like a cliché answer, but I feel like I have been living my dream throughout my whole career. Recently, I’ve been very inspired to do a mixed-use concept village that will combine all of my signature dishes and ideas I’ve gathered.
Do you have any tips for young creatives who are trying to get their start?
My advice would be that hard work is always necessary. You will face new challenges every day, but they will help you grow and continue to improve. I believe that everyone deserves to follow their passions and create a life they want to live. As you can see creativity is everywhere including in what we eat. After hearing Chef Morimoto’s answers we were inspired to pursue our creative passions and find one of his restaurants near us to indulge in some of his cuisine.