The other day I was watching an episode of Iron Chef America which pitted a N.Y. challenger , Chef Amanda Cohen , against Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. Chef Cohen helms a vegetarian restaurant ( or as she prefers to say , a vegetable restaurant) and this was an all vegetarian challenge , the first of its kind that I can remember. No meat , no poultry and no seafood were allowed . This placed Iron Chef Morimoto at a distinct disadvantage since he is used to cooking with animal protein . It must have been like getting into a boxing match with one hand tied behind your back . No problem .
Even though Amanda Cohen is a good chef with a very winning personality , Chef Morimoto is in a class of his own . The secret ingredient that day was Broccoli and it was very interesting to see the different ways in which the two chefs treated the vegetable as they, particularly Iron Chef Morimoto, made some fantastic dishes. He won the Broccoli Battle ,going away , by the lopsided score of 56 to 45. He won in every category … Taste , Plating and Originality. The score really doesn’t do justice to the one-sidedness of the contest ; it was obvious , as the contest unfolded , that Morimoto was going to win handily.
This is not to take anything away from Amanda Cohen who acquitted herself creditably ; it’s just that Morimoto is so darn good. Not even the other Iron Chefs, Bobby Flay , Mario Batali , Cat Cora , Michael Symon , or Jose Garces are in the same league as Iron Chef Morimoto. His whole approach to cooking and his understanding of the ingredients are unparalleled. It is , however, his plating and his originality that places him so far ahead of anyone else. His plates are so beautiful ,so jewel – like that they are a delight for the senses. I’ve had the good fortune to eat at his restaurant in New York and the excellence of his presentation and the sheer novelty of his dishes just blew me away.
I haven’t always felt that way about him . When I first saw him on the original Iron Chef , I wasn’t much taken with his eclectic style as he tried to marry American ingredients with Japanese cuisine . At the time I felt that Iron Chef Chinese , Chen Kenichi , and the two earlier Iron Chefs Japanese, Roksaburo Michibata and Hiroyuki Sakai , were better than him . Not anymore. Now , I feel he stands all alone on the pinnacle . No one else is close.