Various activities and dreams for the future
You are bridging Japan and France in various ways – opening a French-Japanese high-class bistro called Le Miyabi outside Paris, and leading instructor chefs at Le Cordon Bleu Japan.In 2007 you received the MOMAJ award.
When I teach at Le Cordon Bleu I do not cook the original recipes that I serve at the restaurant. I teach them traditional French cuisine. We all are working in close quarters and it is lively so I like teaching. There is no learning about cuisine, but teaching in itself is a good learning opportunity, as a person.
There are many cases of chefs from abroad asking me for advice on traditional Japanese ingredients and cooking methods, and accepting trainees at our restaurant. I think it is natural to share what I know. That French man, who is doing prep in the kitchen, is also a chef who came to study Japanese cuisine a few days ago.
Do you have any dreams about opening a specific type of restaurant? Do you imagine anything like that?
It has been actualized already. This is truly my dream. I am the type of a person who doesn’t think about the next one year, three years, or ten years that much; instead I try hard on what I am doing at the moment. I want to continue cooking while enjoying the liveliness here, where many Japanese and foreigners visit.
I see! I am sure that you will deepen your search for Japanese ingredients and cooking methods and work them into your menu, utilizing your fluent Japanese.
Of course, I use ingredients representative of France such as truffles, but I would like to produce a fresh marriage with Japanese materials. Japanese materials, whether vegetables, fish, or meat are all interesting. There are tons of things that I still have never seen so I want to explore!
We have promotion events where we collaborate with producers and sellers all around Japan, and also do product development; those kinds of activities are also very fun.
I don’t work with people without passion: managing restaurants and staff
At La Tour d’argent Tokyo you were surrounded by passionate staff all eager to learn and now you are cooking with liveliness with these staff members. Are you satisfied with your staff?
It might be harsh but there is one thing I would like to take a chance and say here.What happened to young people nowadays? I have been working as a chef for 35 or 36 years, but the awareness of the youngsters today are very low. They do not want to study, have any desire, and do not listen to people. It seems like there are many young people like that. I see it especially in many men. What has changed over these 20 years?It was not like that before.
In what situations, for example, do you feel that?
For example, young people today search for information on the internet first when they study ingredients. When I teach them, they say, “That’s different from what’s on the internet.” They think it is normal to gain knowledge from smartphones so they check them readily, and think the information is the most correct. I think change is important, but they get the communication stance wrong.
I want to work with staff who are hard working and have passion.When I hire at our restaurant, I prefer women with a bit of experience.There are cases lately that make me feel that women are more eager and hardworking.I feel motivated to teach someone people who are eager.
How do you manage the staff that you work with?
In a big kitchen with many staff, the working style means each person only does their part. You do duck, you do chestnuts, and you do this. When it is completely separated, the person feels bored and unsatisfied. In my current restaurant, I communicate with staff in order to think of the best way to draw out the potential of the ingredients and build a menu.It is very fun.
Only working as you are taught will not be enough to convey the taste to the customers.So it is important for the staff to enjoy their work and have a mindset where they think about what is really delicious. My role is to make the environment and atmosphere. So I treat my staff as family members, often warmly and sometimes harsh.
Having passions and enjoying! Cheers to the future chefs.
Please tell me what you value the most as a chef.
Important to being a mature chef, in my opinion, are allowance, freedom, and speed.
First is “allowance.” Without allowance, you cannot do a good job. Do not be disturbed no matter what happens; give yourself some flexibility without getting panicked. And moreover, have confidence. This is very important. In order to do so, though, you have to have experience.
Next is freedom; but again, in order to be free it takes experience. You can stray because you have fundamentals and knowledge. There are many rules in French cuisine but I am flexible about adding Japanese materials, like matsutake mushrooms. I do not get trapped by restrictions or judgements. I think there is a freedom in my food.
Speed is not about cooking speed, but I think it is important to have a sense of speed and flexibility to integrate new things and ideas. In my restaurant, we accept French trainees who come to study about Japanese materials. I think it is also my role to teach about and pass on Japanese cuisine to my juniors.
As a conclusion, please give some encouragement to young people who aim to be chefs and those who are working hard in the field.
My policy is “Have passions and enjoy.”
I have made extra efforts to study about the culinary world. I read many books, ate at many restaurants, and all sorts of things. I liked everything about the culinary world. I hope it is the same for everyone else.
And moreover, it is important to enjoy it from the bottom of your heart! Even in the case of first-class service and food, it does not taste good if you eat with a formal mindset. It is important to relax sometimes by making jokes. Fun is a kind of magic way to add extra taste to food.
I can tell that you love food, from bottom of your heart. As a missionary of Japanese food culture and the bridge between Japan and France, I expect that you will continue to flourish. Thank you for your precious time.
(Interview: Osamu Saito, Writer: Mito Ikemizu, Photographer: Tomonari Shimizu)
*After this interview, French Kappo Dominique Corby moved. From December 6, 2016, it started as a new restaurant with a new name, Maison de Minami French Kappo Dominique Corby. It offers the same lively kappo style where visitors can closely watch the hands of the chef from seats at comfortable counters and tables.It allows diners to enjoy an original menu that fuses Japanese with French by Mr. Corby.