On Meeting Masaharu Morimoto
Oh man, I’ve always wanted to be like Clotilde Dusouilier from Chocolate and Zucchini and name a post “On meeting ____” where the blank is filled in with some famous person’s name. And now I am; I never thought it would happen so soon. But for now, my version of “meeting” has a very different meaning than Clotilde’s. She has gotten to cook with Sadaharu Aiku, and sign a copy of her own book for Jude Law, and I…
I got to sit in an audience and watch Morimoto cook.
But, you won’t hear any complaints from me! Watching THE Iron Chef Japan Masaharu Morimoto cook two of his favorite dishes in person, right before my very eyes, was pretty damn awesome. I was definitely a happy camper (aside from the car issues I had along the way.)
The event was actually a book signing put on by Kendall College and the Chicagourmets organization. Morimoto recently released a new book called “Morimoto: The New Art of Japanese Cooking” – which by the way is FANTASTIC – and he was coming to Chicago for its debut. The event coordinators threw in a cooking demonstration and a food and wine tasting. Sweet!
The wine was provided by Chandon wines, as in…the Chandon guy himself was there to explain them, and as in, I rode the elevator with him on the way out! They were featuring two of their newly released wines: a Rose Brut and a Blanc de Noirs. But anyway, back to Morimoto…
The two dishes he prepared were Tuna Pizza and Daikon Fettucine, both of which are in his book.
He started with the Daikon Fettucine, a recipe he said came from his mother. Daikon means Japanese radish and he showed us three different ways to prepare the radish into fettucine-like shapes, some simpler than others. If you’re Morimoto and have amazing knife skills, you could peel layers off the radish in a circular motion, and then slice the layers into pieces of “pasta,” or, if you’re like me, you could just use a vegetable peeler! Either way, he showed us how to do both and I was very grateful.
Here’s the final product. He cooked the radish in a tomato sauce that he made from fresh garlic, onion, and tomatoes.
Next he made tuna pizza. Tuna of course, refers to sushi tuna and he showed us two ways how to make it. One way was to carefully slice (again with his amazing knife skills) sashimi pieces of tuna and place them in a circular pattern around the already-made pizza crust. The other was to finely chop the sushi tuna so that it becomes almost a sauce, and spread it on the pizza crust. He used the latter method and topped it with some jalapenos, tomatoes, onion, and anchovi aioli. Here was the final product:
Now, when I signed up, I thought the food tasting meant I would get to taste his food, but alas, these two small dishes were not enough to pass around. Instead, the students of Kendall College culinary school prepared appetizers that, while I was disappointed they weren’t Morimoto’s, were pretty excellent.
BUT, a funny thing happened. While I was in line waiting to get Morimoto’s autograph, the line curved around the cooking demonstration table. When I was at the point in line where the two food dishes were right next to me, a Kendall college student jumps in front of me to grab a piece of the tuna pizza right off the plate! At first I think he is obnoxious and rude, and said to my friend “Umm why does he think he can do that?” but then after many others followed his lead, a series of other thoughts ensued and now I’m thankful to him. Two small plates of food were somehow split between the hundred or so people in the audience, or at least the people who were around to scavenge (we surely did look like scavengers who had never eaten in their lives…)
So I bet you want to know how it was. Well…I went into the event thinking I would love and rave about the tuna pizza, but it turns out I liked the Daikon Fettucine much more! His tomato sauce, or I should say his mother’s, is to die for. But now I can say I have officially tasted food prepared by Masaharu Morimoto himself! And here’s a picture to prove it (and to break up the text :o) ):
After the cooking demonstrations, the audience and Morimoto went through a little Q&A action. A bunch of typical questions came up to which Morimoto would frequently answer “I consider cooking more of a passion than a skill,” and claim that he cooks for himself, not for anyone else (motivationally, not physically.) But the Best Question Award goes to….drum roll please…the person who asked “Will you be opening up a restaurant in Chicago?” He actually sat there and pondered it. It was adorable. Most people would maybe chuckle and say “maybe,” etc. But he said he’d consider it and then asked how the Japanese food market was in Chicago. I think we collectively yelled “IT’S GREAT!” Right now he has only one restaurant, located in Philadelphia. So if Chicago happens, I will definitely brag about being the witness to that idea. Haha.
Anyway, I think that everyone should go out and buy Morimoto’s book. It sells at a somewhat-hefty $40, but it has the most amazing photographs and illustrations of food I have ever seen. Morimoto goes through his techniques step-by-step, and it was definitely worth using my Border’s 20% off-one-item-coupon for. Not to mention, he was a hell of a nice guy, and if that doesn’t sell you, well, I don’t know what would.
After he signed everyone’s books, he said goodbye and did one of those polite head nods as he left. I was across the room unprepared for his leaving, so I did one of those reflexive jump up and waves. He turned around and waved back, and that made my day! Am I starstruck or what? After that I left to go deal with my broken car, and guess who drove by to see me (and my dad) under the hood? If only he would have stopped to help me! Haha.
Either way, that’s the story of how I met Masaharu Morimoto. It was awesome.
-Hillary, still taking in the eventful and tiresome weekend