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Lecture Hop: The Japanese Iron Chef

The first rule of Iron Chef is that there are no rules.

Yesterday, legendary Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto and Jordan Sand, chair of Georgetown’s Japanese History Department, teamed up to help give the rest of the world a taste of what it means to be a master culinary artist. Bwog’s resident authority on all things edible/Closeted Iron Chef fan, freshman Bijan Samareh, was in attendance to give us the details.

As immortalized by the posters lining the walls of Ferris Booth, the quote, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well,” is not just an epigram to trick you into mistaking your soggy pasta for high cuisine. Rather, it is a way of life for the true patrons of the culinary arts. Appropriately, the quote was used to introduce Chef Masaharu Morimoto to the stage at his cooking demonstration and lecture last night, presented by the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture in the beautiful teatro of Casa Italiana. Chef Morimoto is well known as an Iron Chef on both the original Japanese version of the show and Iron Chef America.

Bwog was front and center as swarms of tweed jackets poured into the auditorium, slowly but surely filling the entire seating area. The event began with Jordan Sand, a Columbia Ph.D., who introduced Chef Morimoto by outlining the chef’s life and many accomplishments. Morimoto was born in Hiroshima, Japan in 1955. In his youth, Morimoto had to give up his dream of becoming a professional baseball player after sustaining a severe shoulder injury. Greatness did not elude him, however, as he shifted his focus into cooking, and eventually came to own restaurants all over the United States, as well as in Tokyo, Mumbai, and New Delhi. Now, he cuts his vegetables with a $5,000 knife and uses tortoise shell chopsticks.

The chef himself then came on stage in prime sushi chef swag (a robe, floral socks, and a ponytail that shouldn’t be trifled with). His table was decked out with a wide variety of fish, vegetables, and flavorings. First, he demonstrated step-by-step to the audience how to make traditional Japanese sushi, from cutting up the fish to garnishing with lemon. He then demonstrated to the audience what he is really famous for—his fusion cooking. The Iron Chef prepared a few dishes that adjust Japanese cooking to match western pallets. He exemplified this skill by preparing Japanese fish noodles Italian-pasta style.

The session concluded with a question and answer session where the audience was given insight into the Iron Chef’s master philosophy. Morimoto’s rules for cooking are simple: there is no such thing as “inherently delicious”, never say no, you must eat sushi in one bite, there are no new geniuses, restaurants are 30% food and 70% atmosphere, and, of course, there are no rules. His unrestricted temperament is the key to Morimoto’s success in the culinary arts.

Needless to say, having watched this man work, my stop by JJ’s Place to pick up a late dinner after the event was a sobering slap to the face by reality.

Iron Chef Morimoto via Wikimedia

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  • Ala Cuisine says:

    @Ala Cuisine One thing not mentioned was Morimoto’s excellent singing voice. After the cooking presentation he sang a traditional Japanese fisherman’s song to the audience.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous ALLEZ CUISINE

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