Masaharu Morimoto: A Time Of Change

Masaharu Morimoto: A Time Of Change

Laura Schreffler
By Laura Schreffler October 6, 2020
WATCH: Grand Seiko x The Watches of Switzerland Group Toge Special Editon, Available at, $5,200

Photo Credit: Scott McDermott




WATCH 1 (On his wrist):
Grand Seiko Heritage Collection
SLGH002 60th Anniversary, $43,000
WATCH 2 (Holding): Grand Seiko Elegance Collection SBGW264, Available at Watches of Switzerland & Grand Seiko’s Nature of Time Experience, $24,000

Photo Credit: Scott McDermott

What are some of your favorite pieces in your watch collection?
A few of my favorite pieces from my collection include my Grand Seiko, Panerai Luminor, Rolex and Franck Muller.

What was the first watch you ever bought for yourself?
I was in junior high school when I bought my first Seiko watch. I saved up all of my money from my part time job of distributing newspapers, and my monthly allowance to buy it.

Do you have a favorite watch memory, from boyhood to your first restaurant to the first time you were dubbed the “Iron Chef”?
My favorite watch memory was when I first arrived to the United States. I thought that I’d only be staying a few years, and I had plans to bring back three things to Japan – a gold Rolex watch, Yankee pajamas and a pair of Converse high top sneakers. When I made the decision to stay in America, I bought a condo in New York City and a Rolex watch.

WATCH: Grand Seiko Sport
Collection SBGJ237, Available at Watches of Switzerland & Grand Seiko’s Nature of Time Experience, $6,800

Photo Credit: Scott McDermott

How did your collection evolve from there?
As my interest in watches grew, so did my collection. Starting from my first watch, a Seiko, to my most recent Grand Seiko, I love to continue collecting them. Everything from the make, model, style and size interests me.

What are your everyday watches?
I love wearing my Panerai Luminor as it’s the right balance of functionality and beauty that I look for in an “everyday” watch.

If money was no object, what timepiece would you purchase?
A timepiece that I would love to own is a limited-edition Grand Seiko x Chef Morimoto watch.

Grand Seiko Sport Collection SBGC230 Limited Edition, Available at Watches of Switzerland & Grand Seiko’s Experience, $42,000

Photo Credit: Scott McDermott

If you had all the time in the world, what would you do with it? 
I opened my first restaurant in Japan when I was only 24 years old and have been cooking and traveling the world ever since.  Because of the path I’ve chosen, I have been able to meet so many people, travel the world, eat so many different types of cuisines and work with such a talented team of people.  If had all the time in the world, I would continue doing exactly what I am doing now. I’m in my 60s and am very proud of feeling full of energy and life and continuing to work with my team to create additional opportunities for our restaurants and retail product.   I do love golfing, though, so maybe I would try to incorporate that a lot more than I do now.

Have you used this time for any personal reflection? To learn any new skills? Work on your business? Play video games? 
These past few months have really opened my eyes and made me appreciate how fragile the restaurant industry is. It’s always been a challenging way to make a living, but we have had to completely rethink our operations from the top down. I usually travel over 300 days a year so not doing that has made me slow down a little bit.  I’ve really enjoyed spending more time at my home in New York while also working on my business and coming up with new, creative ideas for upcoming products, restaurants and collaborations.

WATCH 1 (gold with gold dial): Grand Seiko Heritage Collection SLGH002 60th Anniversary, $43,000
WATCH 2 (gold watch with green dial): Grand Seiko Elegance Collection SBGW264, Available at Watches of Switzerland & Grand Seiko’s Experience, $24,000

Photo Credit: Scott McDermott

How challenging has Covid-19 been to your industry? To you personally? 
The pandemic has been especially hard on the restaurant industry when you consider how many jobs have been lost and how many restaurants will never open again.  It’s also shown the world how resilient we are.  The restaurant community quickly banded together to support each other, showed a tremendous amount of creativity in order to keep serving our guests and I’m so proud to be a part of this industry. The pandemic reminded us of our strengths and taught our team how to quickly adapt our business model in order to best serve our guests and to bring our restaurant staff back together safely.

You recently shut down your iconic New York restaurant. How hard was that decision? Do you think you’ll reopen in a different location within Manhattan when the economy bounces back, or are you looking at new destinations?
Of course it was difficult to say goodbye to Morimoto New York, as it was my first restaurant in New York City. And I had a very special relationship with it and the great partners we had there.  But I’m still operating in New York City with Momosan Ramen & Sake on Lexington in Midtown East.  I have actually been serving ramen on my menus for nearly 20 years, so opening Momosan was a natural way for me to really focus on this type of cuisine with one of my favorite spirits, sake.  Momosan is such a fun concept for me because it’s exactly the kind of food that people want to be eating right now. It’s delicious, satisfying, fast, and at a price point for almost any budget. We recently announced several Momosan locations opening around the country, including Boston, San Jose, and Miami, as well as another coming to Brooklyn.

WATCH: (Chef is wearing)
Grand Seiko SOKO Special Edition SBGA427, Available at, $5,000

Photo Credit: Scott McDermott

How are you evolving your business in this Covid world?
Thankfully we have introduced online ordering, takeout, and delivery options, which was new to us. So far, the convenience of takeout and delivery has been well received, and I think this is a service that guests will continue to seek out and expect even once restaurants return to a sense of normal operations.  We also are looking at plans for all future openings to incorporate even more outdoor dining options than before, as people continue to seek out an open-air option.

You recently launched your own single malt whiskey. Tell us about that.
I’m very excited about our limited-edition Morimoto single malt whiskey that we partnered with Rogue Ales & Spirits to create. This hand-crafted single malt whiskey combines the Morimoto Signature Imperial Pilsner and Black Obi, Rolling Thunder barrels, and distiller selected proof making this something that is truly special. You’ll also notice a unique label on the bottle, which was designed and created by me, which I love.

Will you have more spirits collaborations in the future?
My relationship with Rogue Ales & Spirits goes back nearly two decades, making it one of the longest collaborations of my career. Our Morimoto-branded beers have been guest favorites in my restaurants around the world, and I’m excited to continue to collaborate with the Rogue team, to see what else we can dream up and offer to our guests. So, yes, I know we will do more work together in the future.