The Iron Chef Is Set To Open Waikiki Eatery

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - September 15, 2010
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Chef Masaharu Morimoto and the author judging a celebrity chef cookoff at the Moana Surfrider

Chef Masaharu Morimoto is no stranger to competition. As one of the original Iron Chefs on the popular TV Food Network series and a regular guest on Iron Chef America, he has an unprecedented army of fans, many of whom appeared to be following him around the Moana Surfrider last week as he made light work of a celebrity chef cookoff, where I was his judging partner.

With his own entourage and a band of enthusiastic followers in tow, he made his way through food stations, pausing every few steps to sign autographs and pose for pictures. After the serious business of judging top chefs from restaurants including Roy’s, Azure and Alan Wong’s, Morimoto and I headed for a quiet spot to chat about our scores.

I asked him how it felt to “judge” his peers.

“Judging is very, very difficult,” he says. “I’d rather just cook.”

He freely admits to a love/hate relationship with the concept of cooking under pressure before an audience of millions.

“When I’m on TV, I am not cooking for a judge or for a camera or even for the audience,” he says thoughtfully. “I am cooking for myself.”

That’s not to say that he’s unaware of the audience.

“On the show Iron Chef, there are only three judges. But I know what the people watching at home expect of me, and what a lot of kids watching expect. As the original Iron Chef, there’s a lot of pressure on me all the time and I’m very aware of that. It’s an honor to be the Iron Chef, of course, but I’m a human being - some days I love it and some days I hate it.”

One thing’s for sure, the man who seems so serious on television is perfectly at home in the limelight. He is effortlessly polite when asked for photos, signs autographs at the click of a pen, and even gets up on stage to sing an a cappella version of his favorite Japanese song. But the chef who trained in Japan, opened his first restaurant at the age of 25 and worked as executive chef at Nobu in New York before leaving to open the first Morimoto restaurant in Philadelphia, currently has things other than good-natured competitions on his mind.

Morimoto Waikiki is about to open at the Waikiki Edition Hotel - the exact date is still hush-hush - and the secrecy surrounding the restaurant and its menu has heightened expectations not only in Hawaii, but among food watchers around the globe.

“Every restaurant I have is very different,” he says candidly, speaking for the first time about Morimoto Waikiki and its food. “The one in New York is nothing like the restaurant I opened last month in Napa. Nothing like it. And the one here in Hawaii? That will be very different too.”

I can’t tell you what’s on the complete menu, but I can tell you to look for some incredible pork, Hawaii’s best seafood and beautiful architectural presentations.

As for the rest of the menu? You’ll have to wait until the restaurant opens to find out. I made a promise to the Iron Chef not to tell.

Happy eating!

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