Q&A: Masaharu Morimoto
October will mark two years since world-famous chef Masaharu Morimoto opened his eponymous restaurant in Las Vegas at MGM Grand, completing the list of global destinations the Japanese “Iron Chef” can call his culinary home. But he didn’t slow his pace once he conquered the Strip. He added to his extensive product line recently when he launched Easy Cup Sake. I stole some of the chef’s valuable time for a chat inside his Vegas restaurant to catch up on life—and ask for more noodles.
You have restaurants all over the world now …
Not every single country. (Laughs)
Not yet. Is there a big difference doing business in Las Vegas than in any other city?
To me, I don’t think there’s a difference between Las Vegas and the other 16 restaurants, but Las Vegas is a very special city compared to any other in the world. There are a lot of people coming for fun and to enjoy the city and a lot coming for business and conventions. To see a family coming in or the serious business people, and to see excitement on their faces, it’s always interesting. I feel lots of energy from this town.
What have you learned from Las Vegas since opening Morimoto at MGM Grand?
I’ve learned how to win at gambling. (Laughs) No, no, I’ve never done it before, even one coin. I’ve been to Vegas so many times but never gambled because my life is already a gamble. I don’t want to spend even a small amount of luck on a machine. This is a very interesting city. You can see a family, different generations of grandparents and parents and kids, every single level having fun on a different level. And we have to understand every single thing about the palates of each generation.
You’re opening your second Momosan Ramen & Sake restaurant in Waikiki. Is there a chance you’ll bring your ramen to Las Vegas?
Yeah, I’ll try. In Japan ramen has been booming but I haven’t been following its (growth) here (in the U.S.). I opened the first in Manhattan and it was a big hit, only 60 seats. Now it does 500 people (daily), eight or nine turns, very busy. And this kind of restaurant (Morimoto), there’s distance from the kitchen to the table, but with ramen, we’re right here close to each other, so I’m having more fun.
You’ve said ramen is one of your favorite things to eat. What else do you like to cook at home?
I don’t cook anything at home. Zero. It’s like a comedian. He is very funny onstage or when you see him on TV, but after that, in person, shh. (Laughs) That’s a joke. Sometimes I work on creating new dishes or new presentations when I get home, but I don’t cook anything. I like to eat whatever my wife gives me. I’m the vegetarian in the house and I eat mostly quiet, veggie things, sometimes a little steamed chicken with seasoning or oil, nothing. But this year I’ve spent five nights in my own bed in New York, so it’s especially hard to eat well when I’m away.
You’ve released a book, Mastering the Art of Japanese Home Cooking, that teaches about making sushi at home. Why is that important?
You can grab sushi easily these days on the corner in any big city. You know how to eat sushi and how to buy sushi, but you don’t know how to make sushi at home. That’s why this cookbook has so many (details) and demonstrations so we can have that opportunity at home. And it goes nicely with the Easy Cup Sake so you can pack it when you go to camp or a barbecue or a picnic.