If all Iron Chef battles were to be judged solely on creativity, then most of Iron Chef Morimoto’s opponents should just enter Kitchen Stadium waving a white flag. Few chefs I have encountered can take the Chairman’s Secret Ingredient to such unexpected places while still creating dishes that are as delicious as they are exciting.
He may not always emerge victorious, but he’s still the one Iron Chef who gives me a shiver of anticipation when I find out I am going to be judging one of his battles.
Here are Morimoto-san’s typically enigmatic responses to 10 probing questions:
Do you feel added pressure to maintain the standards of Iron Chef America, given your association with the original Iron Chef Japan?
MM: I always feel tremendous pressure no matter which country I do the Iron Chef battle in. This pressure, however, is not because I am the original Iron Chef Japan.
If you had to sum up the difference between Eastern and Western approaches to cooking in just one word, what would it be?
MM: Seasoning. In the West, I try to create strong tastes because there is a difference in the taste buds between the Japanese and Americans.
Your Stained Glass Sushi Roll in Battle Asparagus is considered one of the top 10 moments in the whole history of Iron Chef America. Do you consider it your finest moment in Kitchen Stadium, and if not, what is?
MM: No. And I can’t say what my finest moment in Kitchen Stadium is because I truly do my best for each battle.
Who was your culinary mentor?
MM: I’ve never had a mentor.
How would the current crop of American Iron Chefs fare if they were to compete on Iron Chef Japan?
MM: The criteria for judgment are different between Iron Chef America and the original Iron Chef Japan, so I really can’t say.
If there was a battle in Kitchen Stadium where you presented dishes — your finest dishes created with tuna — and Iron Chef Symon presented his best efforts with pork, who do you think would come out on top?
MM: I think it would be a draw.
What is your favorite part of any fish to eat?
MM: It depends on the fish. Each fish is very different, depending on the kind, the season, the size and the quality. So I can’t pick any specific part.
Have you ever considered any ingredient in Kitchen Stadium beneath you?
MM: I haven’t considered any ingredient beneath me. As an Iron Chef I should be able to accept any challenge. For example, in one of my battles, the ingredient was eggnog. Most chefs wouldn’t really consider this an ingredient to be used in cooking a meal. The actual battle was very challenging, but the results were quite good and I think interesting for both the judges and audience.
What would be the one tip you would give any aspiring young chef?
MM: Sharpen your knives.
What would your three desert-island ingredients be?
MM: If I brought ingredients to a deserted island, they would be rice, soy sauce and sake to drink. If I took ingredients from a deserted island, they would be fish, fruits or vegetables.