Procuring quality food materials there is difficult. Under the situation that we can only get 50% of materials that are satisfactory. Sushi is created with these limitations.
How is the sourcing of food materials in France? I bet Sushi depends on quality ingredients.
Indeed freshness of the materials is very important. I think we are using top class fish in Paris. But still we can only get 50 to 60% that we are satisfied with. It was much worse in 2012 when I came to France, so it is better than before.
In the situation that you cannot obtain quality ingredients, what do you do for ideas?
It is natural that we cannot have quality materials like in Japan if you run a sushi restaurant abroad, so in that situation we have to come up with ideas. So I work on developing sushi using local materials. For example, by adjusting to eat delicious food, I serve river fish at different times of the year. Unlike Japan, types of fish we can use are not so many. I serve Japanese anchovy by slicing it to pieces like very young fish.
Since I came to France in 2012 until now, I have been doing product development by using local materials.
In France because you have limitations in materials, you develop new types of sushi.
At this moment I think it is difficult to serve delicious Sushi unless I do so.
Realistically the same materials as in Japan are not available.
But in order to do so I need to know how I can utilize local materials for sushi and how I can make it. Of course, I did not know much at first, so I used to work at a French restaurant for a while. It is best to learn local cuisine in order to know how to use local ingredients.
By doing so we are able to use local materials well,and finally I can work on the development of “sushi specific to a place”.
You trained at a French restaurant! Sometime, I’d like a French sushi recipe book to be developed.
Actually, I sometimes hear that request as a half joke. Nowadays, I am invited to European sushi contests to judge, but I hear worries that there are very few sushi textbooks for French people. I guess it is rare for sushi to use French materials in Japan, so not required, but it might be good if there were resources that introduce that kind of information in France.
Recruiting partner by myself in Fukuoka. I thought I could not work together abroad if that person is not someone who is resourceful.
What kind of people do you think you want to work with?
Anyway, a person with resourcefulness. Skills are important, too, but resourcefulness counts more than skills. Resourcefulness is not like I want something special, but I want to work with someone who can do basic things like he can greet people, be courteous, and look people in the eyes when talking to them. I want to work with someone who can do these things.
What kind of team are you now?
I run the kitchen with only Horai san. For the hall, we have one Japanese and one French person, so in total 2 people. Horaisan, who takes care of Japanese food besides sushi, was whom I recruited directly from Fukuoka. As I thought of working abroad, I cannot work with anyone but Horai san, so I suggested we go to Paris together. Of course, his skill is for real.
Do you recruit actively also in Paris?
If we have one more person, we can do more things, but we are okay for now.
Sometimes, French people request a little training, so in that situation I sometimes accept them. By the way, there are almost no applications from Japanese living here.
Most Japanese chefs coming to France come to learn French cuisine not sushi.
The field of Japanese cuisine in Parisis at a turning point.
What I should do is toexplain what Japanese techniques are for and what you can do with them.
What do you think will happen with Japanese cuisine in Paris in the future?
I think the quality will rise steadily from now on. As for the fish, fishermen are starting to realize that if you prepare good fish, people will pay more.
Now famous chefs of French cuisine are at a level that have good Japanese knowledge related to fish. It is at a point where one can distinguish between really good Japanese food and Japanses food that is not good.
Do many French chefs come to eat sushi?
Yes, they do. They eat our Sushi and sometimes they are interested in techniques to keep the freshness of fish. However, French cuisine is to heat food basically, so it depends on the people to integrate the techniques to keep the freshness. There are aspects that they do not fully understand what they can do if the freshness is good.
So when that type of French chef comes, I try to tellexplain such basic things as why the freshness of the fish has to be good, what we can do when the freshness is good, and we can serve this way by processing like this. By doing so, I hope chefs will adopt Japanese ways and it spreads to general consumers so the demand for fresh fish will increase.
As a result, the level of Japanese cuisine in France will also rise steadily.
Please give a message to young Sushi craftsmen in Japan.
I want them to love food of their own country. I want them to know more about great traditional Japanese cuisine made by Japanese craftsmen. In addition, I think it is good to go overseas for those who want master skills in Japan, as well as to want to challenge abroad.
As yet, there is no system for sushi craftsmen to find full time employment at European restaurants, but there are many ways if you use your feet. It makes a whole lot of difference to talk with French chefs who come to Japan for events and see if there are any opportunities. There are chances from tiny things, so take action.
(Interview and writer: Juro Maeda Photographer: Yurina NIIHARA)