Photo: Allen Salkin
After his uneven performance, a sober Morimoto offered an excuse: "With no drink, it's the first time."
Next up at the "Rock & Roll with Morimoto and Friends" event was Ming Tsai. The Ohio-born chef of Chinese heritage partnered with Morimoto for a duet on another slow Japanese song. There were no official judges, but the crowd's groans during Ming's goose-like warbles and honks spoke volumes: If the day's mystery ingredient for round one was a Japanese ballad, the chef who made the least mess of it was Morimoto.
But then up to the microphone stepped Anne Burrell. The spiky-haired knife-wielder who originally hails from upstate New York, chose an all-American tune: "Country Roads." She made a meal of it, lancing into the gentle John Denver classic with the gusto she usually reserves for spearing a tender lamb shish kebab, wowing the crowd of 100 with her arm waving, honky-tonk prancing dance steps and a voice that made up in twang what it lacked in tremolo.
Anne, who made her Food Network debut as a sous chef on Mario Batali's Iron Chef team, was clearly the champion on this day. In addition to singing, the event, called "Rock & Roll with Morimoto and Friends: A Sushi and Karaoke Soirée," featured sushi delicacies prepared by a roster of talent, including Marcus Samuelsson and Masato Shimizu.
Tyler Florence was said to be in the house. Both Morimoto and Ming led the crowd in chants to entice him to take his turn on the small stage. But Tyler didn't take the bait. One audience member said she saw him quickly skulk out the exit around 1 a.m., unwilling to test his skills against his chef brethren.
Maybe it was a good idea. He left behind no trace.
Asked if she was worried about Slashfood putting her performance up on the Web for all the world to judge, Anne said, "I already know it's going to be on the internet, so I'm going to do a very G-rated performance."
"When I started off karaoke singing," she confessed. "I was not good at singing. I have developed a love for karaoke, though, so I'd like to think I've become better -- in my own mind anyway."
And so, here it is. See which of these chef-singing-karaoke videos you can stand watching the whole way through.