A restaurant chef of a small town became a chef of a exclusive hotel. He aims to create a new model case of chefs.

Azure 45
Shintaro Miyazaki

Azure 45 Shintaro Miyazaki

He supports a service man whom he looks up to to open his restaurant. Moving to France with a firm decision.

You did your apprenticeship in “Le Bourguignon” for two years right? Were you supposed to work that long?

Mr. Miyazaki :
Chef Kazuki Okabe who was a master of the restaurant, Le Bourguignon started his restaurant, Au gout du jour in Tokyo. In this opportunity, I decided to move to the new restaurant.
I think of Mr. Okabe as the world greatest service man. He treats us as if he treats his customers. He was like a big brother for me. That’s why I really wanted to help him. People around me said “Why are you leaving such a good restaurant. You really shouldn’t.” However, I pursued what I thought I should do.

He is such an attractive man I guess. Where do you find the difference between him and others?

Mr. Miyazaki :
Even if you pretend to be a good service man only in front of customers, human nature will eventually appear. I think this is when you realize the differences. Mr. Okabe is such a truthful person. There were many customers coming to his restaurant who adored his truthful hospitality.
When he opened his restaurant, he took a very unique system which he accepted an investment from his customers. It became a public popular topic at that time. That’s what he was only able to do. His customers were supportive of him because of his sincere character.

You went to France after that. What made you visit there?

Mr. Miyazaki :
When I became the top two of the Au gout du jour after three years of working there, I thought about what I was lack of as a chef. I realized that the only thing I would need to do is to go to France. I thought my words wouldn’t have cogency for future workers as long as I don’t have any experience working in France. Therefore, I decided to go to France even if it would be hard to do. I was already 29 years old at that time so Mr. Abe willingly accepted and supported my decision.

Azure 45 cuisine

Photo provided: Azure 45

Feeling the weight of Michelin stars in Paris

Had you already decided which restaurant you would do your apprenticeship at?

Mr. Miyazaki :
I wanted to find a place by myself so I hadn’t decided when I moved to Paris. I just found a language school to get a student visa. Then I started looking for a place which could hire me as a stagiaire (apprenticeship). It took about one and a half month to find the place. At first, I wrote letters to about 20 different three-star restaurants. However, I realized after three weeks that it took so long to receive responses from them.  I realized too late, right? lol   When I realized that I would use all my budget in a month, I was able to take actions in a different way.

What do you mean exactly?

Mr. Miyazaki :
Until then, I had a pride as a chef of some experiences. However, I decided to forget about it and visited some two-start and three-star restaurants on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris. I visited these restaurants directly and knocked at the door to talk to them.
I opened the front door and smiled say, Bonjour. lol

That’s amazing that you directly visited restaurants. Were you able to speak French at that time?

Mr. Miyazaki :
Of course not. lol   I handed my CV to them and said to them “I would like to work here!” in French by looking at a memo that I wrote the French translation on. I just repeated the same phrase again and again. I visited some restaurants. Some rejected as soon as I talked to them and some just received my resume and didn’t contact me at all. After I had visited some restaurants, there was a 3-star restaurant which accepted me to come into the kitchen and told me that they would contact me on the next day because the chef was not working on that day.
However, I passed by Laurent, which was a two-star restaurant at that time, on my way home. The front door was closed but I called them. I was allowed to come in and see the chef.
They said to me, “You can cook fish as you are Japanese, right?” so I said “Yes! “. Then, they told me “Ok, come here tomorrow.” This is how I got a place to do my apprenticeship.

Did you have any problem when you were working in the two star-restaurant in Paris?

Mr. Miyazaki :
Well, I didn’t understand the language so it took about a month to be able to do things I can call “work”. Laurent is such a big restaurant with the capacity of 80 tables. It was a very busy restaurant. There were about 15 chefs in the kitchen and 3 patissiers. In the basement, there was a kitchen specifically for a preparation of meat and other ingredients. There were many foreign staff working there. The grand chef who is at the top of the chefs always shouted at us saying “You are slow!” or “You can’t use such a dish! ” It had always a very tense atmosphere.
In the beginning, my co-workers put all the responsibilities to me when the chef got mad at us. Moreover, I was not able to speak the language well so I couldn’t get used to the workplace that much. One day, one of the French co-workers was moving the fish dish which was not warm enough to the next section. So I told him he shouldn’t do it but he said “Shut up, you are still a stagiaire!” and he ignored me.  In the end, the chef got extremely mad and it blew my cool too. They were very surprised and tried to calm me down. I was taken to the basement kitchen when I realized. On the next day, however, I realized that it suddenly became very easier to communicate with them and the distance between them and I became close dramatically.

You were accepted because you clearly stated your opinions.

Mr. Miyazaki :
You need to be strong state your opinions if working in a foreign country. You need to be as strong as you could fight with others, I realized that it was more important to try to communicate with them by body language or any other ways than speaking good French language.
I worked at Laurent for about four months. After that, I was introduced to some different types of restaurants by my co-workers in Laurent and worked these places including at a restaurant with a Michelin star. After half a year, I felt there was nothing more to learn in terms of the cooking skills. Therefore, I didn’t really stick to whether the restaurant has a Michelin start or not.
However, I thought it was important to be in the local area to know the authentic French ingredients tastes and its culture. Therefore, I went out as much as possible to try food there and travel to the local areas.

Is there any different you think between a restaurant with Michelin stars and one without Michelin stars?

Mr. Miyazaki
I think it is whether the whole restaurant has a sense of tension. By having a pressure of Michelin stars, chefs were always serious and shouted at us. The volume of their voices couldn’t be compared with other restaurants.On the other hand, the restaurants in town which had nothing to do with Michelin stars had a very loose atmosphere. I felt a good sense of tension in the new restaurant which aimed to gain stars.

Azure 45 Shintaro Miyazaki

Becoming a successful chef of a new restaurant which was gaining attentions of the public. There are things he would like to tell his staff about.

At that time, had you already decided when to go back to Japan?

Mr. Miyazaki :
Mr. Okabe of  “Au gout du jour” asked me if I wanted to work at a new branch in Marunouchi in Tokyo. It was when two years had passed since I went to France. The new restaurant was Au gout du jour Nouvelle Ere. It was opened in April 2007. It was on the 5th floor of Shinmaru building. It was in front of Tokyo station which stand out with its red bricks. It was in a commercial facility but there were about 20 tables and had a peaceful atmosphere. The concept of the restaurant was calm and peaceful and welcome only the customers who made reservations in advance.

Was everything going well from the beginning?

Mr. Miyazaki :
The building had a very viger atmosphere and the restaurant business was going very well. Also, it was the first year of Michelin guide to arrive. We gained a start soon after we started the business. Of course I was very happy. I got very excited about this with everybody, Mr. Okabe and staff members.

Was there anything changed after you gained a start of Michelin guide?

Mr. Miyazaki :
Well, both our staff and I were filled with a feeling of tension. There are only a few restaurants which can gain starts. It means that we were going to get public attentions. I felt a pressure and responsibility.

Were you very strict the same as the chef in the Paris restaurant?

Mr. Miyazaki :
Well, I was not as strict as the chefs in Paris. I I would be suspended from the kitchen if I was that strict now. lol    I paid attention to everything not only food but also services. I pointed out as soon as I realized something. Some customers used to say “He is angry again..” We were famous for its strictness in the food industry. However, I think it is very important to have a sense of tension all the time to be able to serve good food and provide quality service to have full reservations 365 days a year.

Is there anything you consider very important as a chef when teaching your employees?

Mr. Miyazaki :
I like to take care of staff members so I tried not to change that habit. For example, when a staff changes his career to a different restaurant, I would like his co-workers to think “Oh, he is very good.” You can acquire the basic skills such as the way of cutting vegetables or slicing fish. It doesn’t matter whether you are good at sensitive work or not.  You can be good at it as long as you try harder. More than that, I told them to see what you need to do depending on the situations and become a person who are sensible and thoughtful. Actually, I was told about this many times by the chef I worked with during my patissier apprenticeship.

What you acquired during the patissier training of three years was meaningful.

Mr. Miyazaki :
Yes. I was able to acquire not only the skills as a patissier but also the importance of following the basic recipes to keep good quality. Also, I was able to learn the importance of quantifying these skills. These were what I learnt when I was working as a patissier.
There was one more thing I learnt from a patissier chef that I also tell my staff about is “if you work hard, you will be able to improve your senses as a chef.”
I am terribly bad at sensitive work. When I decorate a cake with the same number of strawberries as other chefs, the quality is obviously different from others.
When I was down about it, the chef told me “You don’t need to worry even if you don’t have a good sense as a patissier. You can cultivate good taste. ” I was able to continue to work hard as I believed in his words.  I imitated things that I thought were good and practiced a lot to acquire the skills. By doing so, eventually I would be able to create something original. That’s what I learnt and kept it in my mind. I tell our staff members about this too.

Azure 45 interior

Azure 45

Inquiry
+81-3-6434-8711

Access
45F The Ritz Carton Tokyo 9-7-1 Akasaka Minato-ku Tokyo
【Roppongi station】
Toei Oedo-line: Connected to the exit 8 of the subway line

【Nogizaka station】
Tokyo metlo Chiyoda line: 3 minute walk from exit 3
Hours
Lunch 11:30 to 14:30

Dinner: 17;30 to 21:00

Closed
Open 7 days a week
http://www.ritz-carlton.jp/restaurant/azure/