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ANOTHER GASTRONOMIC WORLD-ASIAN CHEFS: ZAIYU HASEGAWA

I have often thought to conduct interviews in Japan, but a few times the language was a barrier to entry. This is a real first interview in Japan (Tokyo) with the indispensable help of The Skinny Bib, probably one of the best “food bloggers, reviewers and/or foodies travelers” in the world. And when I say “Food blogger”, I imply: cooking enthusiast, rigorous, intellectually honest and trying to take photos where the image quality is equal to the quality of dishes. So I had the chance to discuss with one of the best young chefs of the moment: Zaiyu Hasegawa (Jimbocho Den).

Chef Hasegawa was born in Tokyo in 1978. His mother was a geisha who entertained customers in a “ryotei” (traditional high-end Japanese restaurant). Zaiyu became interested in Japanese cooking under his mother’s work and influence. After the high school, he started working at a well-known “ryotei” called Uotoku. It is a few years later, at the young age of 29 he opened a small “unconventional” restaurant called DEN, and since Den has received several accolades (Michelin stars, Tabelog Japan etc.). Given the hierarchy in Japanese cuisine, it is rare to see a young chef in their thirties already obtain such praise.

The “cuisine” at Den is a very personal “vision” of “Kaiseki ryori” (Japanese haute cuisine) by the chef Hasegawa. That is to say, playful, creative, inventive, seasonal, close to nature and focused on the pleasure of the customer first. The interview with chef Hasegawa is an example of short answers that imply much, simply read between the lines and watch her “cuisine”…

An “Électron libre” in Tokyo dedicated to creativity, products and customer happiness!

_____________________________________________________________________________

Q+A WITH ZAIYU HASEGAWA (www.jimbochoden.com):

1-(Scoffier) What is the philosophy behind your “cuisine” in general?

ZHasegawa– To make people happy and express myself.

2-(Scoffier) Do you have a flavour or taste from your childhood that is again memorable?

ZHasegawa– My most favorite taste is my mother’s cooking. Also, when she was
geisha, she sometimes brought home bento (Japanese lunch box). I like both.

3-(Scoffier) Do you have a particular foods (or products) that you often use in your recipes?

ZHasegawa– I always use dashi (Japanese stock), Japanese tea and kuzu (starch from Japanese root vegetable)

4-(Scoffier) Do you have a mentor (chefs or anybody else) that inspires you in your career?

ZHasegawa- Everybody that I meet.

5-(Scoffier) What are your source(s) of inspiration to create a recipe?

ZHasegawa– Inspiration comes from my customers, producers and staff, and how to make them all smile.

6-(Scoffier) In everything I have read and seen on you, each dish seems to experience, there is a playful side. This is important for you?

ZHasegawaPlayfulness is a very important thing for me, partly because I only speak Japanese. I want my food to communicate. I always try to talk to customers through my dishes.

7-(Scoffier) Did you change your “kaiseki” menu often?

ZHasegawaMy menu changes all the time according to seasons and availability.

8-(Scoffier) The restaurant is perceived by some Westerner (foodies, journalists) as one of the best in Tokyo now. How is it perceived in Tokyo (by the journalists, foodies etc.)?

According Skinny Bib– “Jimbocho Den is one of the most well-received restaurants in Japan. Currently, apart from its two Michelin stars, it is ranked as third-best restaurant in Tokyo on Japan’s restaurant ranking website Tabelog. Chef Hasegawa’s cooking and hospitality is also creating buzzes overseas, most reputedly in Brazil”.

9-(Scoffier) Can you give us a detailed recipe (Signature dish or other) that is characterized the cuisine of Den and Zaiyu Hasegawa?

ZHasegawaRecipe:Salad” is my signature dish.

10-(Scoffier) What are your goals (ambitions) as chef or for your restaurant ?

ZHasegawaI hope everybody will come to my restaurant.

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RECIPE: “Salad” By Zaiyu Hasegawa

I use a few cooking techniques for each component that goes into my salad. Some leaves are served fresh and raw; some pickled; deep-fried; braised in stock; roasted; grilled. Each component has different texture and temperature. The ingredients vary according to seasons and come from a special grower. I often dust root vegetables with tea. Sometimes I add fruit. The dressing is made by cutting kombu into small pieces and mixing them with sesame oil.

FURTHER INFORMATION

JIMBOCHO DEN/Chef Zaiyu Hasegawa
1010-0051 2-2-32
Jimbocho, Kanda, Chiyoda-ku
Tokyo (Japan)
www.jimbochoden.com

PRESS

1. The Skinny Bib (the best guide), About the Fine-Dining in Japan (Tokyo), February 2013

2. The Japan Times, Review of 2012 by Robbie Swinnerton, Dec. 28 2012

3. Tokyo Food File (Long review + photos), May 2013

4. Spanish Hipster Blog (review), June 2013

© Credits for photos at: #1– Portrait by The Skinny Bib/ #2– “Salad” by Jimbocho Den.

Tous Droits Réservés. Copyright Scoffier © 2008-2013

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THE GAME-BRITISH & SCOTTISH CHEFS: JUNYA YAMASAKI

The Brits have been preparing for some time the after Marco Pierre White cuisine. Not that there is a british style but we can certainly say that the emerging chefs are pro-locavore and that they are sourcing the best products of the island of Albion. In the very cosmopolitan London, the influences of young chefs are many, which give them a unique culinary personality.

I thought I’d come back later with another English chef, but circumstances have changed the schedule, so I complete a “Londoner trilogy” with the chef Junya Yamasaki. I know that many chefs already know very well Junya and Koya restaurant, I have heard only “good things” about him and his “small dishes” marked by simplicity and creativity.

It was during his art studies in Paris he began to cook, and it was under the teaching of Mr. Nomoto (Udon master) he learns the art of Udon noodle in Paris. Junya Yamasaki is a self-taught, but he made an “internship” with two of the most famous chefs of the moment, Magnus Nilsson (Fäviken Magasinet) and Dan Hunter (Royal Mail Hotel). In 2010, he opened with partners, Koya (London), a casual restaurant specializing in Udon noodle but quickly became a “must-go-to” for the “daily small plates” of chef Yamasaki.

But thanks to this interview, I discovered a creative chef in symbiosis with its products and very influenced by his japanese roots (Kansaï) and philosophy Shyojin Ryori. His “cuisine” is unlike any chef that I interviewed, except maybe 1-2 chef(s) from Australia/NZeland. A “cuisine” closer to the artistic improvisation and to the instinct of the chef, completely inspired by the products of certain suppliers. It may be a coincidence, but in the way, I think at chef Bertrand Grébaut (Septime). Just to illustrate, here are a few recent titles of his dishes: Nuka Fermented & Grilled Mackerel with Shiso Daïkon/Steamed Turnip in Dashi with Ramson Oil/Tofu, Chicory, Dandelion & Mustard Salad/Grilled & Hay Smoked Char.

Definitely a chef to follow for a long time!

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Q+A WITH JUNYA YAMASAKI (www.koya.co.uk):

1-(Scoffier) How do you explain the philosophy behind your cuisine and what is it main characteristics?

JYamasaki– Our speciality is Udon noodle, but we also play a lot with daily changing/special black board/small plates Menu.

My “cuisine” is honest/natural/simple/minimal. Stylistically close to the popular and everyday home cooking, philosophically influenced by Zen and Shyojin Ryori.

Seasonal ingredients are essential, then we try to find our products locally, therefore some of our food become strange for the Japaneses, but familiar to the Europeans, that could be a challenge for us and exciting for the customers.

2-(Scoffier) Where did you learn to make the udon noodles/dishes?

JYamasaki– In Paris, under the Udon master Mr. Nomoto at famous Udon noodle restaurant called “Kunitoraya”.

3-(Scoffier) Do you have a flavour or taste from your childhood that is again memorable?

JYamasaki– I’m from Kansaï, West side of Japan, which is famous for light seasoning. I love the tastes of fish caught and grilled by the river and I love the smell and taste of ripe tomato just picked from tomato plants.

4-(Scoffier) Do you have a particular foods (or products) that you often use in your recipes?

JYamasaki– I like pickling the part of vegetable we normally throw away like turnip green and use it for seasoning. I also love the English game in general which I perceive like a true luxury.

5-(Scoffier) Do you have a mentor (chefs or anybody else) that inspires you in your career?

JYamasakiFergus Henderson, Rosanjin Kitaoji as chef and some Zen monks (past and present) in Japan.

6-(Scoffier) Koya specializes in the classic udon dishes but you have a great reputation for your “daily small plates”? How do you develop (creative process) your daily menu?

JYamasaki– Very simple. First, I get fresh and local seasonal ingredients and then wonder what can I do with these ingredients today. It is the fresh ingredients that dictates our “small plates menu” everyday. I try to be open to all cooking methods but I also try to listen to the “voice of nature” and to the precious gifts and tellings of great predecessors and precious thinkers.

7-(Scoffier) Initially it was only udon restaurant, how daily specials meals arrived in the menu?

JYamasaki– True, but we had this in our mind before we opened the restaurant. We knew we have to enjoy cooking, not just do the same food to feed everyday, and this is the best way to do.The more we do, the more we have learned things, that is actually so exciting. That’s also why I want to do a “daily changing menu”. The literal meaning of Shyojin Ryori ( Zen Monk’s food ) is “make effort to progress everyday”.

I learned enormous amount of stuff in past three years, from both Japanese and European cooking, on the history of food and, it’s funny, I had to learn a lot about my own culture and heritage. Never thought about Zen aspect for example.

8-(Scoffier) Is this one of the aims to offer kaiseki-style meals in the future?

JYamasaki– It doesn’t have an aim to offer kaiseki, though kaiseki has a root to Zen and Shojin Ryori. It is just fascinating “cuisine”, vegan but full of understanding of food, creativity and the life.

9-(Scoffier) Can you give us a detailed recipe (Signature dish or other) that is characterized the cuisine of Junya Yamasaki?

JYamasakiRecipe: Stout and Honey Pork Belly

10-(Scoffier) What are your goals (ambitions) as chef and for Koya?

JYamasakiContinue feeding the people with nice food of course, and at the same time I always want to learn more about the meaning and esthetic of eating.

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RECIPE: Stout and Honey Pork Belly
(Photo not available. The daily menu changes too often)

In KOYA, we have been serving “Braised Pork Belly with Apple Cider” from the day one, and it has been the biggest seller as a small plate menu. It is so addictive that I call it Pork Brownie. This version is the recipe that I came up with when I discovered fantastic local dark beers and honey in Faviken during a few weeks stage there. I cooked it as a staff meal on my last day together with “Rain Deer Dashi” Udon. And ever since, I put on our special black board menu sometimes. I even did with chocolate stout and orange as an half joke, but it was seriously good!

Ingredients

-Pork belly (The amount you need)
-Braising sauce mix:
water 500ml
stout 300ml
honey 150ml
-Ginger
-Onions

1) Cut the belly pork into big brick size, or buy the bricks of pork belly. Sear them all around in hot frying pan.

2) Boil them with medium strong heat in water for about 1,5 hours (this is to render the fat and leave only collagen in belly). Let them cool down till the room temperature in the boiled water and keep in the fridge. The water will be set like jelly and the belly meat will be kept in it easily for a week if it is properly refridgerated.

3) Take the amount of belly blocks as you want to cook from it. In Koya, we cook quite a lot everyday, but at home you can accommodate with the size of casserole that you have. Cut them into chunk of cubs (3-4 cm) and layout in your casserole. Do not lay one on top of the other.

4) Cover the belly with the braising sauce mix with some ginger and whole small onions, then braised with medium heat till the sauce gets reduced and get the silky texture. It will usually take around 2 to 3 hours.

5) Serve with hot mustard.

FURTHER INFORMATION

KOYA/Chef Junya Yamasaki
49 Frith Street
London W1D 4SG
info@koya.co.uk

PRESS

1. Observer Food Monthly Awards 2012

2. The Skinny Bib (Review), Oct. 2010

Tous Droits Réservés. Copyright Scoffier © 2008-2013

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Daniel Puskas/©A.Mintzes

MY DOWN UNDER GARDEN-AUSTRALIAN CHEFS: DANIEL PUSKAS

Let me say that if the plate (assiette) of those Chefs are as generous and of the quality of their responses, we can  assume that we will have a great time. Every encounter was a wonderful discovery, but The Australians chefs blew me away! They have a very distinct personality and a very unique cuisine that mixes technique, technology and influences from Spain, Japan, Thailand as well as New Zealand.

It is not because of my Austalian roots (really!), that I am presenting to you a second chef from the same restaurant. It’s just that Sepia has been awarded ”Two Hats” in Australia and that Martin Benn was appointed Chef of the Year at the 2011 Good Food Guide Awards. And next to the chef Benn, there is the very talented chef Daniel Puskas.

Daniel Puskas was born in Sydney (Australia). He began his career as an apprentice chef at Tetsuya’s. From there Daniel travelled to London where he worked at Zuma restaurant (London). Back in Australia, Daniel Puskas took up a position at Marque Restaurant (See the Q+A with Mark Best). At Marque, he was nominated like the Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Chef Award. After several others travels and stages, Daniel took up the kitchen of Oscillate Wildly (Sydney). And now, he acts as co-Chef of Sepia with the great chef Martin Benn.

Like the chef Bennhis cuisine is a cuisine of purity, experimentation and perfect mastering of French techniques and strong Japanese’s influence. It is a cuisine that tries the highlight of the essence of a product. Creativity at the service of Nature!

 

Q+A WITH THE CHEF DANIEL PUSKAS:

1-(Scoffier) How do you explain the philosophy behind your cuisine and what is it main characteristics?

DPuskas- My approach to cooking is modern and progressive whilst using traditional techniques and a natural focus. I like my dishes to be clean and creative with a slight twist. I take inspiration from many different sources to incorporate into my cuisine, such as history, word play and people. I also take a lot from nature, trying to make sure the food looks organic, colorful and fresh. Above all, I try not to over complicate things, using only a few components per plate to allow the ingredients to speak for themselves.

2-(Scoffier) Do you have a flavour or taste from your childhood that is again memorable?

DPuskas-My Nana’s greens beans. She grew these in the backyard and I remember picking them with her. As a child I refused to eat any other green beans.  

3-(Scoffier) Do you have a particular foods (or products) that you often use in your recipes?

DPuskas- At the moment we are having a lot of fun with dashi at work. Dashi is a base stock made from kelp and bonito flakes and is a traditional and fundamental component to Japanese cuisine. The umami flavour of the dashi creates a lot of depth and complexity to the dishes without using heavy and rich sauces. Recently, we’ve been emulsifying flavoured butter into different dashi stocks. 

4-(Scoffier) Do you have a mentor (chefs or anybody else) that inspires you in your cuisine?

DPuskas- I am inspired by a variety of chefs, both local and overseas, for different reasons. Andoni, Bras and René Redzepi inspires me with their love of nature and natural approach to cooking, sourcing native and seasonal produce. On the other hand, Ferran and Albert Adria inspires me with their innovative modernist approach to cooking. They use new techniques and products to help achieve textures and tastes in food that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. Heston (Blumenthal) playful yet refined cuisine is interesting in that it creates modern dishes based on historical foods and events.

Locally, Martin Benn, Mark Best, Dan Hunter and Ben Shewry are, in my eyes, defining and shaping Australian cuisine with their distinctly unique food. I also take a lot of inspiration from my close friends/chefs. We are always chatting about what we are up to in the kitchen and offering helpful advice. Without them I wouldn’t be the chef I am today.

5-(Scoffier) Eight years ago, we only know Tetsuya Wakuda like Great chef from Australia, but I have discovered with this Serie much fantastic chefs… and a really different (new) cuisine; French techniques with Asian influences and local products. Is there any an Australian signature in cuisine (in the world) presently?

DPuskas- Australia is close to Asia so we are influenced by its produce and ingredients and luckier for it. We are fortunate to have chefs like Neil Perry, Tetsuya, David Thompson, Kylie Kwong and Christine Mansfield to help us understand and use Asian foods and techniques. As a country, we are a very young and multicultural. This is helping to shape and develop our cuisine. I believe that the future of food in Australia will get stronger so that one day we will have a rich food history.

Sepia Kitchen/Photo Louise Lister

6-(Scoffier) You have worked with several excellent chefs; Tetsuya Wakuda, Mark Best, a stage at WD-50 and Alinea, and Martin Benn. Presently, you are a small but a really strong team at Sepia Restaurant. How do you work every day with Chef Martin Benn?

DPuskas- Martin Benn is an amazing chef and a great boss. It’s easy working alongside him in the kitchen because he’s a great motivator, mentor and friend. We work side by side on the pass everyday, with Martin controlling the service and me making sure things are running smoothly. Generally at some point we sit down with a coffee or a glass of wine and talk about new dishes that we are working on. We always discuss what we can do to change and develop new and existing dishes to improve them.

7-(Scoffier) How do you develop (your inspiration) and construct the Saturday night chefs tasting menu at Sepia, a really popular experience?

DPuskas- Martin is very flexible and encourages all the kitchen staff to think about menu ideas for the Saturday deg. If one of the younger chefs has an idea they will approach us and be encouraged to develop it. Martin has always wanted his team to be included in everything. If a dish is a standout on the Saturday deg it will make its way on to the weekly menu.

8-(Scoffier) Do you use some elements from molecular gastronomy or new technology in your cooking techniques? If yes, which?

DPuskas- Yes we love new and innovative ideas and techniques but we try not to lose focus of the original product. If we can make a dish without the use of different types of additives then we do it. One day I would love to have fancy equipment like gastrovacs and lyophilizes, but at the moment we have a pretty standard fit out.

9-(Scoffier) Can you give us a detailed recipe (Signature dish or other) that is characterized the cuisine of Daniel Puskas?

DPuskas-Recipe: Butter Poached Leek, Cooked and Raw Wild Garlic, Lentil Sprouts and Golden Dashi. 

10-(Scoffier) What is your goal (ambitions) as chef? Do you think about write a book, a television show, others?

DPuskas- I love being in the kitchen and inspiring the younger generation. My goal is to one day have my own restaurant cooking contemporary Australian food with a focus sustainability. To do this I plan to create seasonal menus and use produce from my own garden or sourced from local suppliers when possible.

 

RECIPE: Butter Poached Leek, Cooked and Raw Wild Garlic, Lentil Sprouts and Golden Dashi

Recipe Poached Leek/©A.Mintzes

INGREDIENTS & PROGRESSION RECIPE

-1 Baby Leek

-20g Lentils

-2 stems of Wild Garlic bulbs attached

-Baby Daikon Leaves

-Native Violets, Red Nasturtium

-20g of butter, 200mlOlive Oil

-5cm stick of Kelp,1 tea spoon, Mirin, liquid Shiro Dashi, 1Tbl spoon of white soy,

-500ml of water

-Xantham Gum

1. Leek: trim of the green on the leek and reserve for stocks or ash. Bag the leek with a little of the olive oil and 10g of butter. Season with salt and pepper and vac on full. Poach in a water bath around 70°C for about 10 mins or until soft to touch then refresh in an ice bath.

2. Sprouting lentils: using a small tray and paper towel, sprinkle the dried lentils onto the layer of paper towel and cover with another piece of paper towel then water, making sure it’s very wet and then keep in a warm part of the kitchen around 36°C making sure it stays moist. This will take about 2 days before you start to see the lentils sprout. Let them grow for another day and then store in the fridge.

3. Wild Garlic: get rid of any dirt on the bulbs of the garlic and try not to damage the leaves or separate them from the bulb.

4. Golden Dashi: bring the water up to boil with the stick of kelp. Once it boils remove kelp and then season with white soy and liquid dashi. Simmer and reduce slightly until you achieve the correct flavor, then emulsify the olive oil into the hot soup. You might not need all of the olive oil so be careful when adding to the soup. Thicken slightly with Xantham.

5. To finish, warm a pan with butter. Hold the garlic by the bulbs and wilt the green in the warm butter. Season with salt and pepper. Warm the leek in a water bath then remove from the bag and place it in the same pan to give it a little color on one side. Warm the dashi and dress the plate.  Finish with the violets, nasturtium and baby daikon leaves.

 

FURTHER INFORMATION:

-Sepia Restaurant/Co-Chef Daniel Puskas/Chef Martin Benn

Ground floor, Darling Park

201 Sussex Street

Sydney (Australia) NSW 2000

www.sepiarestaurant.com.au

 

-Review(s):

-Chef of The Year 2010, http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/restaurants-and-bars/martin-benn-wins-chef-of-the-year-20100907-14yf3.html

Sydney Morning Herald, http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/restaurants-and-bars/sepia-20100906-14xn0.html

 

Tous droits réservés. Copyright Scoffier © 2008-2010

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