After spending a few minutes tying his kimono sleeves up in the traditional samurai way, he greeted us and explained part of the reason for the demo was to show that one doesn't need to endure years of training or spend thousands of dollars on tools to cook Japanese cuisine. First, he cleaned off the cutting board explaining that "one should respect and care for your tools" -- I couldn't help the knee-jerk comment of "No Bobby Flay." Apparently he heard that, as he suddenly twitched his shoulders to suppress a giggle, leaving behind a smirk. The chef from Alexander's Steakhouse was more vocal in his laughing "Hah!" and there were a few chuckles from folks within hearing range.... I suspect even if some of them didn't so much hear me as think the same thing I did.
All of us culinarians were intensely watching his knifework, and the rather long sakimaru takobiki knife he wielded with elegant precision. His movements were easy but minimal, applying little effort on the slicing and mostly just guiding the blade where he wanted the cut. The first dish he presented was "Tuna Pizza", which may sound odd but the visual pun was amusing: finely sliced tuna sashimi arranged on a tortilla that had been grilled until cracker-crisp, followed by an artful layer of slivered onion, jalapenos, halved cherry tomatoes, and pitted kalamata olives. The laden tortilla is then cut into serving pieces, gently pushed back together, and then dressed with an anchovy-aioli. The result looks like a cunning take on a vegetable pizza but would taste completely different. This is signature Morimoto: he loves visual puns.
The visual pun of his next piece was no less amusing -- "Daikon Fettucini" in which paper-thin strips of daikon radish become the noodles gently simmered in a marinara sauce with a japanese flair. While the sauce was cooking, Morimoto did a quick taste check and aDur dded a few pinches of salt, the last pinch tossed with a little more force and punctuated with a "bam!" a-la-Emeril. That got the whole audience laughing. Alas, neither dish was presented with sample for the audience to try, but it was still a lovely show of his skill and personality.
Due to the pressures of time and the large crowd, I was unable to do more than a respectful "Konbanwa, Morimoto-san" which made him jump and grin "Ho!" He appeared pleasantly surprised that I had been inspired by him to go to culinary school, but I was unable to show him my silly little sketch before the next person was up with a stack of books awaiting his signature. Ah, well, I can only imagine he'd enjoy the irony of my art.