Celebrating Good Books: International Book Week

Celebrating Good Books: International Book Week

In celebration of International Book Week, I thought I’d share five favorite books on cooking, food and delicious inspiration.  These are the books that I use, read and refer to quite often, which is why they made the list.

Entertaining by Martha Stewart
I always keep my hardcover first edition (found at a vintage book shop) handy and refer to it often.  I think these are her best recipes ever!

Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child
A must-have for anyone in the kitchen, no?


I took this photo of Ming Tsai goofing off in Takashi Yagihashi’s kitchen

French Lessons: Adventures with Knife, Fork and Corkscrew by Peter Mayle
I laughed and delighted my way through France via Mr. Mayle’s humor and good wit.


Simply Ming: One Pot Meals by Ming Tsai
I love the simplicity and freshness of a quick stir-fry and breakout my woks whenever I can.

Mexico: One Plate at a Time by Rick Bayless
His recipes and techniques are so good, so detailed and so easy to follow.

Obviously, there are many, many more great food and cooking books out there…. These are just the top five that came to my mind.  Feel free to share your favorites!

Q & A with Masaharu Morimoto and Takashi Yagihashi

Q & A with Masaharu Morimoto and Takashi Yagihashi

This is PART TWO of my amazing evening with Chefs Morimoto and Yagihashi.  To start at the beginning, click here for “Dinner with an Iron Chef” 

Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto

CK: Chef Morimoto, you’ve cooked for people all around the world, from celebrities to every day diners.  Is there anyone that would make you nervous to prepare a meal for?

Morimoto: No.  I don’t cook for anyone but myself.  Even when I’m on Iron Chef and supposedly cooking for judges, I’m really cooking for myself.  Everyday, I challenge myself to be a better cook.

CK: If you’re cooking for yourself, what are you making?  What foods comfort you?

Morimoto: I enjoy everything.  My comfort food would have to be Japanese food.  I could eat it everyday.  I like Thai, French, Italian foods, but I couldn’t eat it everyday.  People like to categorize me and my restaurants as serving Japanese food.  But it’s not.  It’s my food, influenced by my Japanese roots.  Again, I cook for me.

Yagihashi: Noodles are my comfort food.  I could eat them everyday.  Of course, there’s such diversity in noodles, there’s so many different kinds and you can’t forget about pasta.  I could eat it all everyday.

Chef Takashi Yagihashi

CK: So how did tonight’s event come about?

Morimoto: Actually, it’s a funny story.  Takashi called me and asked if I wanted to do an event.  I said sure and didn’t give it another thought.  He planned the menu, he prepared everything, he got all the ingredients.  I just left it up to him.  I didn’t check on anything. I trust him as we’ve known each other a long time.

 CK: How did you and Takashi meet?

Morimoto: Takashi knew Nobu-san (Nobu Matsuhisa) before he met me.  One day, Takashi came into Nobu Restaurant while I was working.  He told me he needed fish to be cut and I started working right away.  That’s why he (Takashi) liked me.

Yagihashi: We’ve known each other for at least 15 years.  He’s been here (in my restaurant) before and he’s seen me in the kitchen.  We trust each other and that means a lot.

CK: You’ve both described your cooking as “global cuisine.”  What do we have to look forward to in global cuisine?

Morimoto: I’m learning more and more about endangered species and overfishing.  My skills and background are

Morimoto's Foie Gras Chawanmushi

based in seafood and Japanese people eat a lot of seafood.  I think Americans need to learn more about seafood and I need to learn more about sustainable seafood. 

Yagihashi: Tastes are changing.  I came to the United States twenty-five years ago and people never said ‘Let’s go eat Japanese.’  Now, people not only say ‘Let’s go eat Japanese,’ they specify what kind of Japanese: sushi, ramen and either authentic or more creative Japanese.

As I get older, I find myself wanting healthier foods, more vegetables, less creams, less salt.  I love seasonal vegetables whereas when I was younger I wanted a lot of proteins and meats.  So for me, I guess you can say I’ll be cooking a lot more healthy stuff, just because my tastes have changed.

 CK: Are there any up and coming chefs that you like to keep your eye on?

Morimoto: Lots of chefs come and go.  Who’s a chef, what makes a chef, it changes all the time.  I guess I like Michimi-san, he works in my kitchen.  He’s young, energetic and works hard.

Yagihashi: I don’t know many young chefs, but I do know Chef Paul at Vie Restaurant here in Chicago.  He’s very good and great at using local foods.

CK: Do you see yourself slowing down or retiring anytime soon?  What’s next?  Another book, another restaurant?

Morimoto: I have restaurants, I have knives, I have beer and sake, I have a cookbook.  I don’t need to do anything else.  People ask me to create t-shirts, hats, cookware. I don’t want that.  I want to cook and make what I like.  I have a theory, it’s that life is about not only having big dreams but a big foundation.

Morimoto and Yagihashi enjoy a laugh with Ming Tsai

Life is about multiples.  If you act like a zero, then nothing will happen to you.  But if you act like a number, a big number with big work, then you’ll get big rewards.  I’ve dreamed big, but my dreams were in big actions.  Every dream had multiple hours of work behind it.  I’m not a zero and I don’t want negative returns.

Yagihashi: I’m not going to die in the kitchen, that’s for sure.  But I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.  I think if there’s ever a day when I don’t want to come to work, then it’s time for me to retire.  I’m working on a book about Japanese street foods.  It’ll feature a little bit of izakaya, yakitori, oden (fish cakes) and really it’s about comfort food.

I have three beautiful children and I take them to Japan so they can learn about their culture.  I think the world is getting smaller and the more we can widen our views, the better we’ll be.

Dinner with an Iron Chef: Masaharu Morimoto in Chicago

Dinner with an Iron Chef: Masaharu Morimoto in Chicago

Chef Ming Tsai with Chef Morimoto

When Takashi Restaurant announced an evening with Masaharu Morimoto, reservations to the tiny Chicago ramen house filled in less than an hour.  The author, restauranteur and Iron Chef superstar teamed up with his friend and colleague, Takashi Yagihashi to offer a five-course tasting menu featuring signature Morimoto dishes.  With every seat in the restaurant taken and a wait-list filled, Kathy (Yagihashi’s wife and restaurant manager) offered me a humble seat at the bar.  As it turned out, it was the best possible seat in the house.

Morimoto chose to spend the evening away from the kitchen, allowing Yagihashi to serve as chef.  Seated next to me while sipping on his own beer, he shared his thoughts on cooking, running a business and the future of global cuisine.  Yagihashi, along with dinner guest Chef Ming Tsai, joined the conversation.

[Read Q & A with Iron Chef Morimoto and Chef Yagihashi (Part 2) here]

“Hey,” Morimoto says to Tsai, “you need to buy my book.”

Chef Tsai caught in the kitchen

“Buy my book my ass,” replies Tsai, “I think my recipes are in your book.”

With that, Tsai gets up, enters the kitchen and comes out wearing a Japanese apron.  He holds a towel in his hand and announces that he’s going from Chinese food to Japanese.  Morimoto then ties a towel around Tsai’s head and tells him to get to work.

“Everyone,” announces Tsai, “free dinner tonight — and for the rest of the week!”

The restaurant erupts in laughter and applause.

Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s Tasting Menu at Takashi Restaurant

Amuse Bouche

Morimoto's Tuna Pizza

Tuna PizzaBig Eye Tuna, Anchovy Aioli

Second Course
Bocconcini de Buffalo SashimiProsciutto, Scallops, Salmon and Octopus

Third Course
Foie Gras Chawanmushi Wasabi, Seared Foie Gras, Soy-Dashi

Fourth Course
Angry ChickenMorimoto’s Tandoori Chicken, Curried Lentils, Crispy Rice Noodles

Fifth Course
Pork KakuniBraised Pork Belly, Scallop Congee, Crispy Burdock

Sugared Salmon with Beet Sorbet, Kobosu Creme Brulee, Asparagus Pocky

See ALL PHOTOS from the Morimoto Event HERE