Meeting with Mr. Helene Darroze. Doing management and become a head chef
After that, you worked with Mr. Helene Darroze for nine years. What kind of work did you work there for that time?
Yes, I was going to leave France after three years, but somehow I ended up at Helene’s place for nine. When I started, the restaurant had just received two stars. We were very busy and time passed very quickly.
We changed the whole menu every two weeks, so it was a regular occurrence to receive new recipes on the Saturday meeting and start making them that Tuesday. It was very busy every day.
After that restaurant settled into a pattern and I was promoted, I realized it had been ten years. For the last few years I was doing HR management as the head chef.
You were also managing personnel?
Yes. I could experience many jobs at Helene’s, so it was good after all!
I was managing employees and making the shifts. Other employees did preparations and I could experiment with food as I wished. Back then at Helene’s, I was very busy in the kitchen with interviewing, recruiting, and making menus – all of it was left to me.
Since I was in charge of employees, when staff members quit suddenly, I was scolded and asked, “Why did you hire them?”
Independence not in Japan, but in France. A choice made because of a time in which customers pursue unique chefs.
After that, you were on your own and had your own restaurant. Were you planning to be independent from the beginning?
Yes. I had that kind of intention. But opening my own restaurant wasn’t just a matter of will, so I also looked for a job as head chef at hotels, around the same time.
It is difficult to have a restaurant unless your or someone you know has the capital.
Fortunately, I got the chance to meet someone who wanted to do it together.
That’s how I was able to be independent and open my own restaurant.
How did you find this co-founder?
One night I was drinking at my friend’s bar in Paris, and I heard a customer say he wanted to open a simple wine bar in Paris. I told him that I wanted to open a restaurant, and he agreed, and asked if we could do it together.
It was best to have about three investors, so I asked an acquaintance in the medical field in Japan, and he said he would support us.
I started this restaurant with two co-founders. My own capital for the investment came from the bank.
Was there any particular reason you wanted to start it in France?
It wasn’t that I had something particular in mind, but Japan simply didn’t arise as one of the candidates. It might have been different if the economy was better in Japan then, but it wasn’t, so I was prepared to open in France.
Also, in Japan there were many chefs with their own restaurants, who have trained in various countries, and I thought bringing back what I had learned in France would not be that unique. Customer tastes were shifting to where they chose a restaurant based on the individual characteristics of the chef, not where they studied. So I didn’t think it would make any difference where the restaurant was.
What’s it like actually opening a place in France?
It’s tough, of course, but I think my experience at Helene was put to better use in France. Customers who know about it visit, but what’s best is that I can utilize my experience of managing restaurants in France. The management styles in Japan and France are very different.
When you manage a restaurant, what do you pay attention to most?
I pay attention to how I communicate with employees. Even when I get irritated, which can’t be helped during working hours, I try not to be upset, and I am careful with my timing if I scold them. If I scold them during working hours, it harms the flow of work.
You cook all by yourself, right?
Yes, I do all the cooking now. In the beginning there was a female chef who had experience working at a three-star restaurant, but she went to Brazil to follow her boyfriend.
It is a very typical occurrence in France.
If you were to hire someone, what kind of person would you like to work with?
I would like to work with someone who can execute what I say. Making two or three mistakes when taking directions can happen to anyone and is normal. But when it becomes 10 or 20 times, that means he or she is not a good match for me and there is an unnecessary load on my shoulders. In such cases, there’s no point to having him or her alongside me.
So instead of a highly skilled person, I would rather work with someone who is compatible with me. Even with great skills, a person with low compatibility cannot handle my directions.
I am doing it by myself, but I would be happy to hire someone who is earnest and compatible.