Food lovers got a chance to met and see some of their “idols” at the recent Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival, with many chefs flocked upon like they were rock stars. And that was never more evident than with Chef Masaharu Morimoto, he of Iron Chef fame.

Although many people may only recognize him from his various television appearances, Chef Morimoto is more than just a TV star – he has opened several highly successful restaurants across the country, including a location in the Bay Area in Napa. We got a chance to sit down with Chef Morimoto after he finished service in a collaborative lunch with Chef Roy Yamaguchi.

With all your commitments, from food festivals to television to all of your different restaurants, how do you make time for everything?

I’m not doing things myself. For example, my whole group from Napa joined me here (for this lunch). At all the restaurants I have opened, I have learned to trust all the people that work there. So I’m fortunate because I don’t have to do as much. This is my job now unfortunately. I want to stay as chef with a knife in the kitchen working, but I can’t always do that. So for me to find the time, I trust the people I work with.

You have such a great, engaging personality. Do you enjoy doing events like these?

I like to do this. But I also have to keep a balance between being a chef and restaurateur. But I don’t consider myself a celebrity; I’m not a movie star, a famous singer (even though he did sing a beautiful Japanese song on request following the lunch). I want to remain a chef.

How has your time been in Napa since opening a few years ago?

It is my first restaurant on the West Coast. I’m looking for another one but as you mentioned, I don’t have a lot of time to do this. A lot of people have asked me about opening restaurants in their cities but it’s not that easy. At each restaurant, I try to localize things, from ingredients to the menu. But it’s not easy. An example, is my restaurant in Hawaii. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to have the same design and menu as those on the mainland. So the Morimoto on Oahu has a special Hawaiian menu, service-wise and decor too. I’m getting a lot of offers and trying to come up with different ideas, little-by-little, but it takes time to build a team, a local team at each location. But Napa has been good.

Do you like creating these different types of menus?

Yes, that’s part of the reason I do events like this. For example today, I collaborated in the kitchen with Chef Yamaguchi, who is a great guy. I can use his kitchen and see what he’s doing – at this hotel, he does room service and has a unique menu. Other events like in South Beach or New York allow me to do the same things. That’s the fun part, seeing what other chefs are doing. The Iron Chef part, now that’s tough and a lot of stress.

You’ve done so much, what’s next for you?

In late summer or early fall, I’m opening a Morimoto Restaurant in Maui. It’s going to be in Wailea at the Andaz Hotel. And a few months ago, I opened another New York restaurant, Tribeca Canvas. It’s a brand new concept for me – no Japanese, no sushi or sashimi. It’s reasonable and casual food.

Previous Coverage: Pictures from omakase lunch w/ Morimoto and Yamaguchi

For all the flash that audiences may see on television, Chef Morimoto is a very humble chef with a great passion for cooking. Even more impressive – he signed every autograph request, took pictures with all his fans, all with a big smile on his face. A true gentleman in the culinary world.