The 20s, when she derailed from the path that was laid out for her.
Is there a reason why you entered into the culinary world?
When I was young, it was the norm for women to marry and become a good wife and mother after graduating college or university. It was the time when 23 was said to be the best age for marrying, and if you do not marry you became an outcast and judged by others. I myself had someone I had been dating since I was a student, so I always thought I would marry him. But as proceedings for the marriage progressed, I became more and more concerned… In the end, I ended up canceling the marriage right before the date we had planned. (Laughs) Up until then, I was simply following the rail that was laid out in front of me, and I had no opinions on my own. But at that moment, started seriously considering questions like, “What can I do?” and “What do I enjoy doing?”
After serious contemplation, what I was left with was a desire to make beautiful deserts and bento lunches. I was living with my parents at the time, but since they were running a business, the kitchen was run by an older lady who made plain meals for older people. But since my parents were running a used book store, I was always looking at foreign books with beautiful dishes and deserts… I always dreamed about homemade deserts and cute bento lunches. But since our home’s kitchen was run by our helper, I was always getting kicked out… (Laughs) So I decided to move into the culinary world, something I had always dreamed of. I worked at a company during the day and attended night classes at Tsujicho Culinary school for one and a half years.
Times so hard for women that even wanted ads were hard to find
Was it hard at the time to enter the restaurant business as a woman?
After graduating the school, I had to start looking for jobs. I told the career advisor that I wanted to do something with Japanese food, but we were unable to find wanted ads for female staff. So I started desperately looking for any restaurant where I could cook at, and found by chance a part time job at a café bar. The café bar was a shop that was also a model room, and an interior design company had coordinated all of the interiors, chairs, and the tableware used in a store. Since that restaurant was run by a female that worked at the interior design company, she welcomed a female cook that was rare in the culinary industry, saying, “We’ll do great things together!” So I worked at the kitchen there for about 4 years, creating café-style lunches and appetizers for alcohol at night.
But it became the case that the restaurant was going to close, so I decided to use that opportunity to study about foreign foods in Italy or France. I actually had a dream of running a small restaurant with me and a few employees when I was a student at Tsujicho, but was not sure what type of food to make. That is why I decided to study all different kinds of foods so that I could discover what type of food I enjoyed making the most.
French and Italian foods were both a world that I did not know about, so I explored different opportunities but they ended up going no where. I became lost in the direction I needed to head towards, so I visited an instructor at the French school of Tsujicho, where I was told, “The French school is a harsh place where a few extremely talented members learn cooking while living together. It’s impossible for a woman to keep up with the harsh curriculum.” But the fact that the instructor told me I couldn’t do it pushed me even more into doing it… I forced my way, saying, “You’re wrong! I can do it!”, and ended up at the fall course of the French school.