Tuesdays With Tastemakers – Daryl Muromoto
It comes as little surprise that Daryl Muromoto, the Executive Chef at Beringer Vineyards, is both a practitioner of meditation and energy healing, as well as a major NASCAR fan. After all, there is creative tension in cooking, with moments of high energy paired alongside moments of quiet satisfaction, that special moment when you find guests smiling and spending just a little more time with exquisite wines paired with food designed to showcase the efforts of Beringer winemakers, yet remaining memorable in its own right.
Though born in Los Angeles, Chef Muromoto moved to Oahu as a young child, and grew up in a multi-generational Japanese family, with both parents and grand-parents under one roof. This sense of community and the importance of family is a key ingredient in the make-up of his life. The communal style of Japanese nabemono, or hot pot cooking is a key influence, and he absorbed the skill and joy in cooking he witnessed with his grandparents. His initial interest was to become a teen counselor, though his love of cooking was evident in a hobby in college that grew ever more noticeable and soon attracted friends to share in his home-style, rustic Japanese cooking. He pursued a degree in psychology upon returning to the mainland and graduated with a BS from the University of Oregon, but landed in San Francisco at the notable California Culinary Academy and began acknowledging that a culinary career was truly his dream.
His career has been a perfect preparation for his role at Beringer, where the primary focus is trade hospitality, with a key role in providing guest experiences for winery visitors, particularly wine club members, as well as special events that range from holiday themed dinners to Founder’s Day Celebrations that might reach hundreds of guests.
Why did you become a chef?
When I was young, my parents and I lived with my grandparents. It is very common for households in Hawaii to have multiple generations living under one roof. We all had busy daily routines, but the one thing that always brought a smile to my face was when we would all gather around the table and enjoy a meal together. The sense of love that food offers by being present with each other became so alluring that I always knew that cooking for loved ones would be a part of my life from then on.
If you were not a chef, what would you be and why?
I would be a reiki practitioner because I receive the same, if not greater, feeling of contentment through energy healing rather than providing physical food.
What is your greatest strength as a chef?
What is your biggest weakness as a chef?
Being less authoritative than most chefs can be.
What’s the one mistake you made in the kitchen that you would never want to repeat?
“You have time to lean, you have time to clean.” – Old kitchen saying
What is your proudest achievement?
Professionally: Making my guests happy.
Personally: mmy daughter, Bella.
What was your scariest kitchen experience to date?
Watching my co-worker steam off the skin on the back of his hand during prep. (He wrapped it up and worked the charcoal grill that entire night)
What is your favorite word or saying?
“I love you.”
What is your most prized possession?
What’s the oddest thing about you?
That I am a practicing Reiki Master.
What song best sums you up?
“Best Day of My Life,” American Authors.
What is your favorite memory?
Being home with my daughter during her first three years.
Which of the five senses is your strongest?
At the present, touch. However, I am working on strengthening my intuition, or sixth sense.
What is your biggest motivation?
What one food group would you choose to be stranded with on a deserted island?
Fruits and vegetables because I try to eat as healthy as possible.
What is the difference between a good and great menu?
Great ingredients prepared through proper technique, while possessing subtle twists. Also adding a bit of your heart into whatever you are cooking makes a significant difference to the way a dish turns out.
Name three individuals you would like to have dinner with.
Buddha, Barack Obama, and Tom Robbins because I am a practicing Buddhist and a staunch Democrat with an appreciation of quirky, philosophical fiction.
Who is your kitchen hero or mentor?
Mitchell Rosenthal, Executive Chef of Postrio (now defunct) in San Francisco. Now co- owner of Town Hall, Salt House, and Anchor & Hope. He was always very involved with plating due to his art degree background, plus he loved adding Asian twists to many dishes.
What is the one thing you want people to remember about your food?
It comes from my heart.
Best comment made about your food? Was it by a loved one, guest, or media?
Guests have told me that their meal has been the best they’ve ever had at a winery. This was a huge compliment since there is so much talent here at Napa Valley wineries.