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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

More Iron Chef Morimoto: outtakes from an interview

morimotobook.jpg

This week's Food section features an interview with Masaharu Morimoto, who has a new book, "Morimoto: The New Art of Japanese Cooking." Here's some more from the Iron Chef/restaurateur.

Q. "Iron Chef" made you a celebrity. How do you feel about that?
A. Iím really popular, but Iím not famous. Iím not a celebrity. Iím just a chef. Walking outside, people say "Hi chef, hi chef." Thatís OK. Iím just popular.

Q. Do you cook at home for yourself?
A. Nope.

Q. Thereís so much talk now about eating locally. What do you think of the locavore movement? How does it affect you?
A. Iím using a lot of local products. Vegetables, fish, meat, fruits. But if I try to do good sushi, I have to take fish from Japan. I study a lot with my sous chef about whatís new today -- tomato, onion, potato.

Q. Your book says that the quality of a sushi bar can be determined by the taste of its omelet. Iíve heard that before, and itís kind of baffling. Can you explain?
A. You eat tuna, yellowtail, whitefish: Thatís technique. Itís not that the sushi chef is good. The tuna is good. The octopus is good. But for egg, eel, and kanpyo [dried gourd], you have to make the taste. Thatís not technique. Thatís a test that a chef has good energy and passion.

Q. Have you seen the influence of Japanese food in America trickle back to Japan?
A. When the TV company asked me to be on "Iron Chef," at first my answer was no, Iím not ready yet. A lot of people said you gotta do it, you gotta do it. Young kids working in this country in Japanese restaurants would go back to Japan with maybe 10 years of experience in New York sushi, interview, and be told no thank you. They didnít trust foreign sushi. Then I did it -- I Ďm not saying I did it myself, maybe the timing was good, and a lot of people were doing [a similar thing at the] same time as me. Now thereís fusion, trendy sushi a lot in Tokyo. Also a lot of famous foreign chefs started to open restaurants in Tokyo.

Q. So if I go to Tokyo, where should I eat?
A. Morimoto! George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz ate there. And the new James Bond. [Chuckles.]

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