Chef Nakata, who trained in France and offers French cuisine in his own style

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Kenji Nakata

point Kenji Nakata

In order to foster cohesion as a team, every staff is an official employee. Ideally, every staff should be able to cook every dish.

What do you value the most in running a restaurant? What kind of a team is it?

Mr. Nakata:
There is a total of 9 staff, in the kitchen and the dining area. They are all in their 20’s, and get along very well. I try to make it easy for them to communicate with each other, such as on the day before an off-day, we all go out for drinks after work.

Additionally, they are all hired as official employees. Inevitably, temporary workers and full-time employees do not share the same attitude. Also, seeing each other everyday and working together seem to create a sense of unity, like a family. The current team is very close to my ideal. They get along well, and can communicate well with each other. They are all work very hard.

How do you manage staff training? How do you foresee it in the future?

Mr. Nakata:
It is important to do one’s job very well on a daily basis. Be dedicated to the job at hand, and continue building upon it year after year. I believe that everyone is able to reach the same level in this way.
Since my restaurant is small, there is no “absolute division of labor.” Of course, each staff has specific tasks, but they all help each other when they can. We greatly value teamwork, also in the sense of helping each other out. By helping each other, they can also learn other jobs.
Personally, I am not a fan of the style, where the staff are told “you are not ready for this job” or “I am not going to teach you this yet.” I believe that even a difficult preparation can be mastered by anyone, as long as the procedures and the key points are thoroughly taught. I think it is ultimately better for the restaurant’s operation, if every staff can cook in the kitchen. When I build trusting relationships, I can continue to give them more tasks.

Of course as my personal wish, I would like to work with my staff as long as possible. However, I do support their individual goals, including studying abroad in France or opening their own restaurants. I am happy to see my staff going independent and opening their own restaurants.

What do you value the most, when hiring your staff?

Mr. Nakata:
I do not care at all whether the applicant has prior experience or graduated from culinary school. I am perfectly O.K. with an applicant having no prior experience. However, he/she must be able to do, “Ho/Ren/So.” I believe that being able to report (Ho), communicate (Ren), and consult (So) are critical for establishing a trusting relationship. Techniques and stuff can be learnt on the job, depending on the individual’s will.

Lastly, is there something you could to say to the people, who are trying to get into this field?
Mr. Nakata:
It is important to find “a job that you find interesting,” regardless of whether you are a chef or not. There are hard times in any field. If you have the “interest,” however, you would be able to overcome them. Also, it is good to have a hobby outside of your work. Have an escape, for when the work gets hard or you get stuck. I think it is easier to balance your life this way.

(interviewer:Osamu Saito writer:Maki Nakahara photographer:Takashi Oka)

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