"Last night you have seal, today you try penguin," declares the Emeril of endangered species, opening the door to his three-story Anthem abode, dressed roguishly in imported silk pajamas. "You stay here. Alexis sleep in today. I go dress, then you, me, we have breakfast."
Yamamoto bounds upstairs, two or three steps at a time, leaving me in a hallway filled with stuffed animals: three different types of bighorn sheep, a polar bear, the mounted heads of a zebra and a moose, and the crouching, snarling body of a wild jaguar, bagged on the Arizona-Sonora border, according to the mounted animal's bronze plaque. Reminds me of an episode of MTV's Cribs where a camera followed around Motor City Madman Ted Nugent, who had a similar taxidermied zoo in his home. When Yamamoto reappears in his white chef's jacket embroidered with his name, I mention this to him.
"Oh, yes, Mr. Ted Nugent is my good friend," he relates, casually. "We hunt penguin together. I cook for his family many time. The Nuge have a really big kitchen."
"Wait a sec, you hunted penguin with Ted Nugent?" I exclaim, trying to process this information. "Ted 'Cat Scratch Fever' Nugent, the guy who raises buffalo and turns it into jerky?"
"Sure, why not?" Yamamoto replies. "He a good shot with bow and arrow. But I like use rifle. Quicker. More precise. Look, he give me this gun."
Yamamoto pulls down a high-powered Remington as long as he is tall from a gun rack on the wall. Engraved onto its side in silver is a note: "To Chef Kaz, Keep on killin' so I can keep on eatin'. Your pal, Nuge." I'm impressed. Not just by the dedication from the guy who wrote such classic hits as "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang" and "Yank Me, Crank Me," but by how unwieldy the rifle seems. Must have a hell of a recoil.
"Nuge kinda crazy," says Yamamoto. "In Japanese, they say 'kuru-kuru-paa.' You see that film March of the Penguins? Remember how mother go get food to eat, then walk a long way back to ice where father keep nest? We lie on slope, fire on mother penguin as they walk back. Nuge, he shoot flaming arrow at one penguin, and scare many away. Penguin explode, they have so much oil in body. He run down and eat it right there, while still on arrow! He can't wait, he so hungry for penguin."
Yamamoto says this happened last year. There's no way for me to verify all this, of course. Attempts to reach the right-wing rocker were unsuccessful, and his publicist insists he's busy rehearsing for his "Wildman Wango Tango" tour of Asia later this summer.
Arizona shock-rocker Alice Cooper, however, was easier to reach. The avid golfer and born-again Christian, who owns the successful sports bar Alice Cooper'stown in downtown Phoenix, hailed Yamamoto's culinary skills, and said that he and Nugent had dined many times together at the Phoenix Country Club, with Yamamoto taking over the kitchen for the night. Cooper has heard good things about Yamamoto's penguin from Nugent, but has yet to sample the frozen-tundra-lovin' fowl himself.
"I did eat Kaz's walrus fillet once, with some sort of sherry glaze, I think," recounts Cooper, then kidding a bit. "Outstanding. Much better than the time I bit the head off that chicken onstage back in the '70s."
Cooper then offered a Biblical rationalization of Yamamoto's extreme cuisine:
"After the flood, God told Noah in Genesis, Chapter 9, verse 3, that 'every living thing that moveth shall be meat for you,' and I suppose 'every moving thing' includes walruses and penguins. According to the Bible, it's all here for man's nourishment. So there's nothing morally wrong with what Kaz is doing."
Whether or not the Lord approves, national and international laws are quite clear regarding the Antarctic's emperor penguins. Hunting of any species native to Antarctica is illegal under both the Antarctic Treaty System, which 45 countries including Russia, China and the United States have signed, and the federal government's Antarctic Conservation Act. However, several nations claim part of Antarctica as their own, such as Chile, Argentina and Australia. Yamamoto's hunting expeditions usually depart under the guise of scientific missions from one of these countries. Walruses? Protected under U.S. and Canadian law, with an exception for the Inuit tribes of Alaska and Canada. Yamamoto claims his walrus meat was obtained legally from an Eskimo family allowed to hunt the beast under these strictures.