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‘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.’
I must have been seven years old when I tasted fugu for the first time. This fish is known for its poison, tetrodotoxin, and you need a permit to cut it up for cooking. In Japan, it is fished mainly around the southern tip of Honshu Island. Since 1992 I have been ordering it from certain selected fishmongers who handle it perfectly, washing and cutting the liver with great care. For the past 10 years or so, one of my signature dishes has been fugu and its milt with crispy potatoes, caramelized salsify and a vegetable juice. The fish has a very elastic texture and a neutral flavor. I sometimes cook it in a shabu-shabu-style broth or serve its skin like a gelatin. It’s also excellent in sauce.