Chef Masaharu Morimoto and Lyrica Okano debunk myths on Sushi Master, interview

Sushi Master on Roku, staring hef Masaharu Morimoto, Chef Dakota Weiss, Chef Kenji López-Alt and Lyrica Okano, photo provided by Roku
Sushi Master on Roku, staring hef Masaharu Morimoto, Chef Dakota Weiss, Chef Kenji López-Alt and Lyrica Okano, photo provided by Roku /

Chef Masaharu Morimoto has had many titles attributed to him across his career. From successful restaurants worldwide to his iconic position as Iron Chef, Morimoto has earned his place in culinary history. On his new show, Sushi Master, available on the Roku Channel, Morimoto is joined by host Lyrica Okano, and judges Chef Dakota Weiss and Chef Kenji López-Alt. As the competing chefs vie for the title Sushi Master, the quest is both an educational and delectable journey for the viewer.

During a recent conversation with Chef Masaharu Morimoto and host Lyrica Okano, the pair offered insight not only into the Sushi Master culinary competition but also a few examples how sushi does not have to be intimidating to the inexperienced diner.

Even though sushi has become a popular food choice, some people might not appreciate that the food genre is far from a simplistic dish. As seen with the first challenge on Sushi Master, the rice is carefully seasoned. It might be instantly noticeable to some, but the component is necessary to a balanced bite.

While there can be structure to sushi and its techniques, both Morimoto and Lyrica believe that Sushi Master encourages both the competing chefs and viewers to break the sushi rules.

As Morimoto mentioned, sushi and sushi chefs can sometimes appear intense, requiring perfection to apply those sushi skills. What he wants to do with this show and with his food in general is for people to “break the sushi rules.”

Morimoto believes that sushi can be easy, enjoyable and fun. He mentioned that his cooking style is that “I can do everything.” From using French technique to including kimchi, that playfulness can be appreciated in the flavor. Even his approach to interacting with the chefs on this culinary competition shows playful side. There might be a time and a place for judgment but the kitchen is not always a spot of total seriousness.

In her role as host, Lyrica understood that she was the bridge between the chefs and the judges. Although that role helped to keep the show moving forward, she said “I came into the show wanting to learn as much as everyone else.”

At the same time, she felt a little nervousness in the situation because Morimoto is a legendary chef. Lyrica said, when “I met him; it was totally different. He is so warm and nurturing. It led into the vibe of the show.”

Through the challenges, the competing chefs are tasked with both sushi and Japanese culinary challenges. In the spirit of breaking the rules, the chefs are encouraged to allow their backgrounds to influence their approach. Whether it is a Korean spice or a Filipino ingredient, those ideas go back to how Morimoto made sushi approachable to a wider audience years ago.

As Morimoto shared, his idea of a tuna pizza enticed diners to see what sushi could be. For the person who could not fathom eating raw fish, the taco concept was an easy introduction. Giving the familiar a twist is often an approachable way to encourage people to step outside of their confined food box.

Lyrica hopes that Sushi Master takes the stuffiness away from the sushi dining experience. She hopes that people will be encouraged to try new dishes and learn to appreciate that Japanese food and sushi are accessible.

Sushi Master with Morimoto and Lyrica Okano
Sushi Master on Roku, staring hef Masaharu Morimoto, Chef Dakota Weiss, Chef Kenji López-Alt and Lyrica Okano, photo provided by Roku /

Although she mentioned that Sushi Master might break some of the rules, the chef contestants need to showcase their mastery of the sushi rules. From there, the creativity can be explored.

What Lyrica hopes for people to learn from Sushi Master is that “sushi can be really fun. It does not have to be just a simple nigiri nor does it have to be $200 dinner where you quietly sit in front of a sushi chef and eat.” Sushi choices are just as bountiful as the types of fish in the sea.

The ability to have fun while enjoying that dinner starts with the chef. As Morimoto and Lyrica retold a particular dining story, it showcased how the chef and the diner are partners in the food experience. When the pair can find common ground, the dish can be what both parties imagined.

According to the story, a diner asked Morimoto for ketchup with his sushi. Before Chef scoffed at the idea of putting that condiment on a dish, he thought about the request and reimagined the flavors in a way that both diner and chef appreciated.

Bringing together tomato puree with fresh wasabi, white soy, and other ingredients, the sauce might have visual similarities to traditional ketchup, but the flavors were Japanese. It was what the diner what they asked but it fit into the Japanese dining experience. The concept is a perfect example how breaking the rules can lead to a bigger conversation. More importantly, it is how connections can be made through the food.

Rules might be broken, laughs will be shared, and Morimoto will bestow some words of wisdom along the way on Sushi Master. After watching a few episodes, dinner decisions will be easy because everyone will be craving some Japanese cuisine.

Sushi Master can be streamed on the Roku Channel. It is free on Roku devices, the Web, iOS and Android devices, Amazon Fire TV and select Samsung TVs. No subscription required.