Yoshihiro Narisawa: "Young Chefs Should Show their Identity"

We speak with S.Pellegrino Young Chef judge Yoshihiro Narisawa about his own career as a young chef and projects he's currently working on.

Yoshihiro Narisawa is a king of the cooking realm. His Tokyo restaurant was voted number one on the inaugural list of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2013 and has remained in second position ever since. It’s currently placed at number 8 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.

The chef focuses on unique Japanese ingredients in many of his dishes, falling on a foundation of French technique that’s almost forgotten thanks to the intense Asian flavours he harnesses.

He’s recently presented interesting research into the process of fermentation and is famous for providing one dish that’s made directly from the soil outside his restaurant.

He’s a fascinating chef with a fascinating approach in the kitchen and we’re lucky enough to have him taking part as one of the jury members for the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2015 Grand Final in Milan. The chef will be in Milan to help decide the overall selection for Young Chef 2015 but before that we caught up with him to find out more about his own work at the moment and just what it was like when he was a young chef.

Tell us your best piece of advice for young chefs?
Show your identity in the front line.

Tell us about a time when you remember making a mistake as a young chef?
In 1991, I was working at Girardet in Lausanne, Switzerland. It was not permitted to work during the break time in the afternoon, but one day as I hadn't finished the preparation for the night, so I hide in the fridge of the basement to make ravioli. I heard someone coming down. I was very frightened because I thought that it was Monsieur Girardet. The person who opened the fridge door was Girardet's best friend, Joel Robuchon. Of course Girardet also came and I was scolded by 2 masters. (it's an experience hardly happen).

What did I learn? Of course, it’s very important to finish the work in time!!

What’s the best advice anyone has ever given to you?
Even some vegetables and fruits, each piece is different from the other in its sweetness, acid and aroma. For example, each carrot and each orange is different. This is the advice that was given.

What’s the worst mistake a young chef can make?
To lie. To be unsanitary.

What do you think about the idea to pairing young chefs with young designers?
I hope that surprising multiplier effect of professional of different genre.

Why in your opinion is S.Pellegrino Young Chef important?
They could have relationship with many same generation chefs of the world. It can be said also in World 50.

You presented some interesting fermentation research at the World Cuisine Summit - can you tell us more about this?
What exactly are you researching? Has any of this work made it onto your menus? We're concretely researching the history and the method of Japanese fermentation. We can learn the beneficial and sustainable idea of the fantastic wisdom of our ancestors by re-constructing the perfect technology of Japanese traditional fermentation.

I use Aspergillus oryzae (KOUJI) for the menu. I express the dishes with some story rather than just using the basic ingredients like Sake, Miso, Soy Sauce that are made from rice and soy beans fermentation.

Tell us one of your upcoming exciting plans for 2015?
The local train running through the nature in Kyusyu (the south of Japan). The menu in that train with the ingredients produced in the forest, sea and field that can be seen from the train. I produce the afternoon tea time in the train with beautiful scenery and good meal.

If you could be a young chef again, what would you do differently?
I consider myself young enough. I'd do the same thing if I could come back to 10 years ago.

What is inspiring you at the moment, you’ve had soil, fermentation - what will be next for you and the restaurant?
Medical care and gastronomy to keep good health.

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