A chef who transitioned his playing field from a hotel to a French restaurant in the city

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Yoshiaki Fujimoto

Différence Yoshiaki Fujimoto & staff

Don’t get angry about mistakes. What’s important is an environment where you can say anything

There are 2 young staff members in the kitchen, but what do you do about training and such?

Mr. Fujimoto:
I try to start conversations about daily life such as, “What did you do yesterday?” or, “Did you watch that TV show?”. If that doesn’t happen, it’s really hard to ask questions about work, and it might even lead to secrets. I watch out so it doesn’t lead to situations like, “Oh, I forgot to order that. Let’s just use whatever’s left.” Even if you make a mistake, if you are open about it you are able to adjust your methods as a team so it doesn’t happen again.

Even if you get angry at them, they’re only intimidated by the fact they got yelled at which intimidates them, so I don’t yell at them when they make mistakes in cooking. If they respect you, they’ll listen to you, which means if they don’t it’s your fault. So I try not to control through intimidation by yelling or getting angry, but rather, if I’m doing things right, the staff would naturally follow my steps. But if I do warn them about something, I try to list all the reasons why.

Even more, I always say, “Be the kind of person where people take care of you. It’s a fortune when people think, “I want to teach them” about you. You should be that kind of person.” That’s because I was that kind of person and I gained a lot because of that. That is why I am pretty strict about greetings, responses, and manners to others.

So you are valuing trust in your relationships because of your own experience. So when you hire staff, what sort of things do you look out for?

Mr Fujimoto:
Of course, there are some requirements, but I look at facial expressions and communication abilities. Also, I only say bad things during interviews. Things like, “You don’t know when we’ll go out of business.” You’ll find good things about your workplace while you work, but you have to firmly communicate the bad things as well, or there is some discrepency between expectations and reality later on.

Moreover, because working is hard, I want them to like their job and really have fun. I want them to come not with the intention of working for money, but to train and improve their skills. Someone who would come to the restaurant even if they were told not to.

So you say the truth as it is during interviews. Do you have any dreams about 10, 20 years from now?

Mr. Fujimoto:
Right now, I am experiencing the difficulty of keeping the business running and gratefulness of having customers. I want to try to keep these feelings for as long as possible. For that, I want to continue visiting other restaurants and buying books.

Also, I am starting to grow interest in fostering other people, so I want to develop where I am now into a more stable organization. Since the 2 in the kitchen now want to have their own store at some point, I am recently really wanting them to achieve their dreams. I feel kind of like a parent… Personally, I want to challenge running other forms of business as well.

Speaking of fostering people, I heard you teach lessons at elementary schools.

Mr. Fujimoto:
Yes, I’ve been doing that since my hotel times, but I conduct cooking lessons and lessons about taste to an elementary school in the city every year. Since my mom grew up on the countryside, she would say things like, “Don’t throw out the skins of carrots!” and I grew up eating kimpira. At that time, I did not like my mom’s “brown” meals like kimpira and hijiki that was so different from other kids’ colorful lunches, but looking back it was a great educational experience.

While you can have anything you want now, there are kids that grow up without knowing what real taste is. That is why I have these lessons, to teach children whose taste buds are developing at an extreme rate to experience the true, authentic 5 tastes. From the perspective of someone running a restaurant, if the customers don’t have developed taste buds, no one is able to appreciate the work we put into our food. In that meaning, maybe lessons like this would end up coming back to help our industry.

(interviewer:Osamu Saito writer:Yasuyo Miyazaki photographer:Keigo Osaka)

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