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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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THE ÉLECTRONS LIBRES-ITALIAN CHEF: YOJI TOKUYOSHI

The Électrons Libres, is a group of chefs that are as individual or a leaders of a group have taken a unique route that goes beyond the learning process. Their philosophy transforms the cuisine of the present time as well as the cuisine of the future in a specific area (place) or country. Sometimes they are the leaders of a culinary movement but often, they are alone in their search.

It is rare that I present a Second (Sous chef) in this series, but there are exceptions and Yoji Tokuyoshi is!

As Second of great chef Massimo Bottura, Yoji has a chance to evolve in an environment dedicated to products, traditions and above all, creativity. For a passionate chef, curious and loves to experiment, it is hard to find better.

Chef Yoji Tokuyoshi was born in Tottori (Southern Japan) in a family of pharmacists spanning six generations. Being the first to become a chef in the family, he has always been considered the black sheep. Beyond his learning in Japan and his work at the Osteria Francescana (over 6 years), the chef made an internship at El Bulli in 2009.

His cuisine is (slightly) the meeting or the clash between the best products of Italy and its Japanese roots, not to mention the influence of Massimo Bottura! What gives a particular aesthetic, precise, maybe inspired by the art of photography (one of his passions).

Differently, but a bit like Katsumi Ishida in France (Lyon), we do not know if it’s Italy who met Tokuyoshi (and Japan) or the opposite, what we know is that there was a magic moment! A chef to follow…

 

 

 

Q+A WITH YOJI TOKUYOSHI (www.osteriafrancescana.it ):

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

YTokuyoshi– My creative process is spontaneous. As I work I get an idea and an inspiration is born. It all happens while touching the ingredients, repeating a gesture or reflecting on my  everyday work. From there, I try to develop the plate using the techniques that I think is necessary to achieve the objective that I have. But that might not be the end of the it. A plate is never done until I stop asking what I could add or remove to this plate.

2-(Scoffier) How and why did you choose to work with Massimo Bottura?

YTokuyoshi- It was definitely fate. I was about to leave Italy because after an internship at a restaurant in Umbria because I had not found a job in any of the restaurants that I had called. I only had € 50 and a return ticket in my pocket before arriving at Malpensa,when I saw an italian guide of restaurants (L’Espresso), I used my last euros to purchased the guide and randomly selected a name in the guide. Guess what? It’s been seven years and I am still there.

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

YTokuyoshi- Obviously, I am Japanese, the ingredients that my grandmother prepared at home: Tofu, Miso, Soy Sauce … but the thing I really remember most clearly is a simple sweet, perfectly ripe strawberries just flatten with the spoon in milk and little sugar.

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

YTokuyoshi- Frankly, I prefer to use ingredients that I find at 10km and less from here. Idea move, not the plants…

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

YTokuyoshi- Massimo Bottura! Only him, I like his philosophical approach to cooking.

6-(Scoffier) Is there a movement or a chef as you watch carefully now?

YTokuyoshi- I like those who combine a great idea with the local ingredients, those traditions have often forgotten. The chefs as Alex Atala in Brazil or René Redzepi in Denmark.

7-(Scoffier) How do you develop (inspirations) your recipes and how did you work with chef Bottura (creative process)?

YTokuyoshi- As I said in my first response, the creative process comes from work everyday, when I am able to give shape to the plate, then I brought it to Massimo because he is the last stage before the final fulfillment.

8-(Scoffier) I look the photography of your dish (at Osteria Francescana) and you have a really particular and great aesthetics, food enters in the world of art. It’s important for you to have a theatrical presentation of your dish?

YTokuyoshi– For me, it is fundamental, any means by which the pot can be used to communicate. Surely that the beauty is decisive in the success of the dish itself.

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

YTokuyoshi- Recipe: Probably my signature dish was presented in May (2011) at the Loft Project: Blood and Ash.

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

YTokuyoshi- I want to become a chef that influence the work of young chefs who look at me as an example. I would go on television to explain how you can cook at home easily and the result is tasty.

RECIPE: Blood & Ash (no photo for this recipe)

For the ash ice cream

-Milk 300g

-Cream 200g

-150g Black truffle (just the outside, earthy side)

-50g vegetable ash (completely burnt parsley, celery, laurel)

-Glucose syrup 50g

-Egg white 30g

1. Make an infusion of one night of the milk and cream with ashes and truffles. Bring it to 80 °C and then leaving to cool to room temperature.

 2. Once cooled, blend very well, pass through a sieve, add the egg whites and put everything in a Pacojet.

For the strawberry concentrated

-500ml of high quality strawberry juice concentrate to 100 ml in the Rotavapor.

Cocoa bisquits

-50g cocoa pure cocoa powder

-200g flour

-70g butter

-80g sugar

-1 egg

1. Mix the powders then add the egg and the melt butter. Roll out the dough on a baking tray and bake 8 minutes at 180 °C. Let it cool and crumble slightly.

2. We served the ice cream over a few crumbles of cocoa bisquits and finished with a splash of strawberry concentrated (fake blood).

3. This dish was created in homage to Wimbledon (cream, strawberries and grass), working on my memory of strawberries and milk from my childhood.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Osteria Francescana/Chef Massimo Bottura, Sous Chef Yoji Tokuyoshi

Via Stella, 22

41121, Modena (Italia)

Osteria Francescana

PRESS

1. Fulgurances Paris (video by Lotta Jorgensen), Oct. 2011

2. Another Mag (review Loft Project), June 2011

NOTE: Copyright for the photo ©Per-Anders Jorgensen

Tous Droits Réservés. Copyright Scoffier ©2008-2012

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