‘My lucky star and a life-changing meeting were the making of me. The first meant that I was lucky enough to be trained in one of the best places in Japan. Most well-known Japanese chefs, who had worked in the best restaurants, in France and in England, have let me work in their restaurants. The second was to leave an indelible mark on my cuisine. In 1990, I joined Le Relais Bernard Loiseau, in Saulieu. I was to discover, working beside my future mentor, a gastronomy that was pure, flavourful, innovative and based around top-quality ingredients. Culinary arts based on meticulous attention to detail and superb team spirit. I had found my way in life.
When I am in Kobe, a town which is a hub for all different kinds of culture, in my ‘inn’ which I have owned since 2000, I have total freedom to recreate that quintessential Frenchness, that magnificent Art of Living, with my minimalist, flavourful, delicate and transparent Japanese-style Nouvelle Cuisine.’
What was your most moving culinary experience?
It has to be my first meal at Bernard Loiseau! Frogs’ legs, sea bass, chicken…, and what they all had in common was the pursuit of excellence, simplicity on the plate, flavours gone wild and immense sensitivity. Nature literally exploded on your palate.
The most amusing kitchen incident you ever witnessed?
Right in the middle of serving dinner, Patrick Bertron asked me to prepare a julienne of fried leek. Confident of my Japanese technique, I set to work… When he checked each dish, Bernard Loiseau asked his chef:
‘Patrick, who prepared this fried leek
- ‘Yama’, Mr Loiseau.
- ‘Yama’, you're a genius. I have never seen a leek so finely and evenly chopped. And so perfectly fried!’
That was a day when, unusually, the word ‘genius’ was applied to the tiniest thing.
Your best piece of advice for amateur chefs?
You must remember to use your culinary memory. Once you've done that, then you can be creative.