Before Masaharu Morimoto became an international superstar, Stephen Starr coaxed him to open his very first restaurant in a burgeoning Philadelphia culinary scene way back in 2001. After many years and a sea change in the food universe, Morimoto is still the gold standard among Japanese and sushi restaurants in the city.
We caught up with the Iron Chef at his original restaurant to ask him a few questions about his life since opening up shop here more than a decade ago, and what is changing for Morimoto Philadelphia in 2013.
How has Morimoto evolved since opening in Philadelphia so many years ago?
Five year after opening Morimoto in Philadelphia, I opened another Morimoto New York, which has become my flagship restaurant, and Morimoto Restaurants have become known to people around the world. But Morimoto Philadelphia remains as my original Morimoto where all of my culinary challenges started and keeps its unique presence in this city. Whenever I come back here, I am motivated again remembering my first challenging days.
How has your empire changed since you became a TV star?
I am grateful that because of the exposure through TV programs, many people come to my restaurants from all of the country. Also, I get many opportunities around the world because people discover me through the Iron Chef shows, which are aired in several countries. But I don't want to be treated as a TV star, but a chef. I am proud to be a chef.
Is it difficult to keep the restaurant relevant as the industry changes?
It is difficult. However, I try to adjust to the changes if necessary as long as I keep the quality I want. It is good to do something new or different, like creating new menu items, because in that way I can motivate my staff and also make customers excited.
How much cooking do you do now, and do you miss the hustle of working the line?
I try to cook in the restaurant kitchen as often as possible. However, I spend more time cooking at events. I do miss working in a busy kitchen. ?
What are the new dishes you're launching at the restaurant, or, what is siginicant about the dishes you're featuring?
I haven't decided the official dish names yet. Some of them are visually interesting dishes with high quality sashimi. For others, I got some ideas from Italian food: Uni Carbonara and Panzanella Wagyu Salad. For Uni Carbonara, instead of pasta, I use Japanese Inaniwa Udon, thin noodles.