Masaharu Morimoto

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Masaharu Morimoto in 2004
Born May 26, 1955
Hiroshima, Japan
Cooking Style Japanese Fusion
Education Tamagawa University
Current Restaurant(s) Morimoto, Wasabi, Morimoto XEX.
Television Show(s) Iron Chef, Iron Chef America

Masaharu Morimoto, (born May 26, 1955 in Hiroshima, Japan) is a well-known Japanese chef, best-known as the third Iron Chef Japanese on the TV cooking show Iron Chef, and an Iron Chef on its spinoff, Iron Chef America. Morimoto's costume on Iron Chef is silver with red trim and a picture on the back of Japanese and American flags tied together in a sheaf, while on Iron Chef America he dons the standard blue Iron Chef outfit with white trim and a patch of the Japanese flag on his sleeve (the other Iron Chefs America have an American flag). In his professional life, to distinguish himself from his on-screen persona, Morimoto wears (purely aesthetic) glasses.

Morimoto received practical training in sushi and traditional Kaiseki cuisine in Hiroshima, and opened his own restaurant in that city in 1980. Influenced by western cooking styles, he decided to sell his restaurant in 1985 to travel around the United States. His travels further influenced his fusion style of cuisine. He established himself in Manhattan, New York City, and worked in some of that city's more prestigious restaurants, including the dining area for Sony Corporation's executive staff and visiting V.I.P.s, the Sony Club, where he was executive chef, and the exclusive Japanese restaurant Nobu, where he was head chef.

Interior of Morimoto Restaurant in Philadelphia, 2003

When he was at Nobu he got his start on the Iron Chef television show. Several months after the weekly run of Iron Chef ended in 1999, he left Nobu, eventually opening his own Morimoto restaurant in Philadelphia in 2001. He now has a Morimoto restaurant in the Meat Packing District in New York City, as well as a restaurant in Mumbai, India, named Wasabi and another Morimoto in Boca Raton, Florida. He also partnered with businessmen Paul Ardaji Jr. and Paul Ardaji Sr. in an Asian bistro venture called Pauli Moto's; the initial branch opened in Tyson's Corner, Virginia but is now closed. Morimoto also owns Morimoto XEX in Tokyo that has a Teppanyaki and a Sushi floor. Morimoto XEX received a Michelin Star in the recent Tokyo Michelin guide.

Morimoto currently appears as an Iron Chef in Iron Chef America, a spin-off from the original Japanese "Iron Chef" series.

Chef Morimoto has also developed a line of specialty beers with Rogue Ales of Newport, Oregon.

Iron Chef

Morimoto's official win/loss/tie record on Iron Chef is 16-7-1. On Iron Chef America he is incorrectly credited with 66 victories due to a typographical error in the credits.

Unlike his predecessor, Koumei Nakamura, Morimoto's introduction as an Iron Chef came with little fanfare, debuting the week following Nakamura's retirement battle against Yukio Hattori. He was chosen based on his style of cooking, which seemed to border on fusion cuisine, as well as his international experience.

Morimoto was initially reluctant to accept the title of Iron Chef, but did accept for fear of the show hiring someone else. Originally, he had planned to incorporate some of the dishes that he had routinely prepared in New York for Iron Chef, but had discovered that previous challengers and Iron Chefs had already made similar dishes. He would become known as the Iron Chef whose dishes always seemed to come out of left field — a famous example is his Bell Pepper Sushi in a sushi battle in 1999. He would usually have a bottle of Coca-Cola to drink while cooking on the show; on one occasion he combined cola with natto to fashion a dessert dish.

Morimoto competed in the first sushi battle in Kitchen Stadium on June 18th, 1999 against challenger Keiji Nakazawa. There were five theme ingredients for the battle, tuna, eggs, Kohada (Japanese Gizzard Shad), Anago, and Kanpy?. Both chefs were given time before the battle to properly prepare the sushi rice (sushi-meshi). Morimoto would defeat Nakazawa.

Morimoto is also memorable for being the target of Tadamichi Ohta, a vice-chairman of the Japanese Culinary Association who headed the notorious "Ohta Faction" of Japanese chefs. The Ohta faction lost three battles with Chef Morimoto before finally winning one when challenger Seiya Masahara defeated Morimoto in the anglerfish battle. The Ohta faction wasn't happy with just one win however and they sent in challenger Yusuke Yamashita, a sake specialist, to battle with Morimoto. At that time, Morimoto had lost two straight battles and no Iron Chef had ever lost three in a row. The theme ingredient for that battle was cod roe and the battle ended in a tie. The overtime theme ingredient was scallions and Morimoto was able to defeat Yamashita in a 3-1 decision.

In his first battle with Bobby Flay in New York, battle rock crab, Morimoto famously declared that Flay is "not a chef" because Flay stood up on his chopping board after completing his dishes. Morimoto went on to defeat Flay in the New York Battle. However, Flay protested the battle. He believed he was "given inferior cooking space and equipment" plus he was electrocuted during the battle. This lead to the two chefs competing once again in Japan during the 21st Century Battles. Morimoto lost to Flay in the re-match using lobster as the theme ingredient.

Iron Chef America

Morimoto and Hiroyuki Sakai were the only two original Iron Chefs to appear on Iron Chef America: Battle of the Masters. On this Food Network special series, he lost two battles with American Iron Chefs Mario Batali and Wolfgang Puck but won a tag team battle along with partner Bobby Flay against Batali and Sakai.

When Iron Chef America was greenlighted as a regular series, it moved from Los Angeles to New York. When Puck was unavailable, Morimoto came on board to replace him. Since his English is heavily accented and usually soft-spoken, his voice is usually dubbed for broadcast during the judgment phase of the show; during the battle, his use of English is not dubbed, but conversations with his sous-chefs in Japanese are subtitled.

As of February 2009, Morimoto's win/loss/tie record on Iron Chef America is 9-7-1.

Morimoto opened a restaurant in the Boca Raton Resort & Spa in late 2008. He has spent time there ensuring a successful launch of the restaurant.

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