By Louis Chan, AsAmNews National Correspondent
Former Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto does not know the meaning of surrender.
The New York location of his famed Morimoto Restaurant will serve its last meal in May, a victim of the coronavirus pandemic. But Morimoto is already busy with his latest venture: Momosan Ramen and Sake.
He says the restaurant is designed to be “full of bold, fun, and new flavors” and combines familiar dishes like ramen with other foods less familiar to an American audience such as crispy pig. Momosan Wynwood in Miami opened Christmas week and he plans to open Momosan Santana Row in San Jose this summer.
“I have learned so much throughout my career but still face new challenges each day and continue to grow from these learnings,” Morimoto told AsAmNews via email. “Sometimes circumstances out of our control like location or one of many other factors can still play a role in the success of a restaurant.”
Morimoto turned his fame as Iron Chef Japan into a multi-national brand. The campy show hasn’t been on the air for decades, but remains a cultural icon and on the minds of many who grew up in the 90’s.
He’s opened more than a dozen restaurants in Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Orlando, Waikiki, Maui, Napa, Tokyo, New York, Seattle and now Miami. His name is also associated with his own line of beer, wine and sakes. He also markets his own grapeseed oil, miso soup, ramen and even knives. Morimoto also authored two Japanese cook books.
He carries the same intense resolve and competitive fierceness he showed on both the Iron Chef and Iron Chef America with him in his business ventures.
He describes himself as focused, yet fun when away from stress, pressure and competition. Morimoto tells AsAmNews the man Iron Chef fans saw is his “real-life personality.”
That competitive streak perhaps originated during his youth when he aspired to be a professional baseball player. He played catcher, sending signals to the pitcher about what to throw and snagging every baseball thrown his way. A broken shoulder ended his aspirations and set him on the path into the culinary world.
In November, the Asian Hall of Fame in Seattle inducted him as a member of its class of 2020.
“I take so much pride in being Japanese, so being awarded the “Culinary Icon Award” from the Asian Hall of Fame is very special,” he said. “I am very humbled by all my fame and success in America.”
Yet his ties to Japan where many of his relatives live remain strong. He says his home country continues to give him generous support and encourages him to share his food vision with the world.
“I think Americans can be a bit intimated by Japanese cuisine and cooking, but there are so many great Japanese dishes that I believe any taste palette would enjoy. Japanese cooking has brought me so much joy throughout my life, and I’m passionate about teaching people simple skills to make delicious Japanese dishes.”
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