Masaharu Morimoto is the chef great chefs admire. Many of us know him from watching on as he wielded knives and slayed the competition on Iron Chef America – always willing and ready to stand up to any chef who challenged his enviable skills. His creativity, execution, and presentation make him one of one of most respected culinary figures of our time. Lucky for Austin residents, the chef is leaving the East Coast this weekend to sample Tex-Mex and participate in the Austin Food & Wine Festival. The famous chef talked with TEXAS MONTHLY about the upcoming festival, Texas barbecue, and where he is planning to dine while he is in Austin.
What made you want to be a part of the Austin Food & Wine Festival?
Austin is a city full of spirit and creative culture. I have heard a lot of buzz about the city’s dynamic and exciting food scene - the food trucks, great Tex-Mex, innovative restaurants, and everything in between. I am definitely expecting some interesting culinary experiences, different from what you can find in New York. I also recently opened a restaurant in Mexico City and am curious to experience Texas’ version of Mexican cuisine.
Tell me the story behind how you got involved.
I have been fortunate enough to be part of some of the world’s greatest culinary festivals, including many Food & Wine events, and I was thrilled to get invited by the partners at C3, my fellow chefs Tyson Cole, Tim Love, and restaurateur Jesse Herman – my restaurant neighbor in Napa Valley – and Food & Wine to be part of this inaugural Festival.
Have you ever been to Austin or Texas before? If so, tell me what you think about the culinary scene here.
I have been to Texas, but am not super familiar with the food scene here. I can’t wait to try some barbecue while I’m in town, and I am excited to try the food that the local people are proud of so that I can learn something new.
You live and work in New York. Do you see any similarities between New York’s and Austin’s culinary scenes?
People here in Austin talk about brisket and barbecue the way that New Yorkers talk about burgers, pizza, or, lately, ramen noodles.
A lot of chefs are excited about meeting you at the festival, but are there any chefs you are excited about finally meeting?
I am excited to see some chef friends like Andrew Zimmerman, Marcus Samuelsson, Tyson Cole, and Tim Love, whom I battled years ago on Iron Chef America. There’s so many great chefs involved that I have not yet met. I can’t wait to get to town and see everyone.
What are your plans for your weekend in Austin? Are there any restaurants you plan to visit while you’re in Austin? If so, which ones?
I hope to sneak away and check out Tyson Cole’s Uchi and Uchiko.
What event are you most looking forward to at the festival?
I am looking forward to competing against my fellow chefs for the best taco at Saturday night’s Rock Your Taco event. I love live music, and I think it’s cool that Lucinda Williams and Mayer Hawthorne are performing as well. And, it’s always fun to see what other chefs are doing during their demos and walk through the grand tasting tents meeting people.
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