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 cuisine

Photo provided: Azure 45

The meaning of becoming a Hotel chef who has never had an experience working in a Hotel.

In the spring 2014, you became a chef of Azure 45 in The Ritz Carlton Tokyo. It was a sudden change in your career so people around you must have been surprised.

Mr. Miyazaki
Probably they had.Au gout du jour in Shin Maru building gained Michelin start in the consecutive seven years. The restaurant business was going so well. However, I was feeling a limitation personally. My feeling of starting something from the scratch became bigger and bigger. Then, I informed our frequent customers on SNS on January 2014 that I would quit in April. The Ritz Carlton Tokyo’s general manager and staff members came to the restaurant to eat my cooking and asked me to become a chef of the hotel restaurant and serve these dishes.

That’s such a daring attempt that you made an announcement on SNS. That’s surprising that a major hotel directly invited a chef in a small restaurant to work with them.

Mr. Miyazaki :
Of course, it is very rare that external organizations offer someone who is at a top of a restaurant a job  because hotels in Japan have an aspect as a company organization.
It was a rare occasion that the general manager of The Ritz Carlton Tokyo came up with the idea of inviting a chef of a restaurant in town. However, I thought it wouldn’t happen when I received the offer. To be honest with you, I didn’t know much about The Ritz Carlton Tokyo. It is such a different world from a small restaurant in town. I thought it would be very difficult for me to be in such a place.

What made you decide to accept the offer in the end?

Mr. Miyazaki :
I thought It was a very rare case so I decided to accept it.
It happens often in France that a successful chef is headhunted and it doesn’t matter whether they work in a small restaurant in town or hotel. If you are a skilled chef, there is always a chance to gain a better work opportunity. That’s why the motivation is high in restaurants in France and it leads to the food industry’s activation. However, small restaurants and hotel restaurants chefs don’t really have an opportunity to communicate and it is almost impossible that a chef of a small restaurant in town changes his job to a hotel restaurant.  If I become a hotel restaurant chef and succeed in the field, there may be a path that hotels in Japan offer a job to chefs in small restaurants in town. Hotels have the network around the world. If there are more Japanese chefs who have gained Michelin stars, social status of chefs will definitely become high. The food industry will become active too. If this becomes true, I thought it was a meaningful opportunity that the Michelin guide arrived in Japan.

So was your aim gaining Michelin stars from the beginning?

Mr. Miyazaki :
Of course it was. When I joined the hotel, I told the staff members at the beginning that I would like to gain Michelin stars this year. They may come today for the research so please have a sense of tension even if they come today. ” It was from July when I started serving my original cookings. It was hard to gain starts that soon but from the following year, we had gained a start in consecutive three years since 2016.

Azure 45 table set

Renovating the restaurant to change everything from cooking and services

So you achieved the first goal. However, it must have been a hard work to change the existing hotel restaurant to what you would like it to be.

Mr. Miyazaki :
I decided to change the restaurant menu to my original menu. Since then, I made a strong decision that I would work hard to change everything such as cooking and services.  You can’t change everything if you do it little by little. If you decide to change everything, you need to change at once. I was able to have a good cooperation with kitchen staff members because I worked with them. However, the problem was the cooperation between service staff. There was a service staff who liked the Ritz Carlton but wasn’t interested in French cuisine. Many staff said the ways of the management were different from before. I told them “I came to this restaurant to gain Michelin stars. There may be things that you don’t really understand but would you please listen to me a little more? ” Of course people are different so we both tried to understand each other to cooperate each other.

You gradually built the teamwork between kitchen staff and service staff.

Mr. Miyazaki :
The biggest problem was that the kitchen staff and service staff didn’t get along well in terms of teamwork. The kitchen staff complained about the hotel services depending on their mood. I made a rule that kitchen staff can’t complain directly to the service staff and told me first about what they have in their mind. In this way, I tried to strengthen the communication between them.
When I talked with service staffs, I cared about many things such as the way of taking. Everybody has a pride as they gained their own experiences. There was a time that I wrote a letter to each staff to tell my feelings. There were some coming and going but after about half a year, they started striving a better cooperation.

What is the attractive point of towns’ restaurants and hotel restaurants?

Mr. Miyazaki :
In a small restaurant in town, I needed to do not only cooking but also other various work by myself such as taking reservations or doing dishes so I was very busy. However, I was truly enjoying cooking at that time. I sometimes tried to combine different ingredients which wouldn’t normally be used together and tried an interesting set-out of food. I was able to express well to our frequent customers. However, I am not able to do this kind of challenges easily at the moment. On the other hand, hotel restaurants have luxury atmosphere and quality services. In that way, I am sure that we have a lot more ways to present the restaurant so I would like to pursue what we can make it possible as a hotel restaurant. Also, the role allotment is very clear in the kitchen. Hotels can make it possible because stable work environment is created. Therefore, I can try many times to create a new dish and have enough time to explain about the food to the service staff. I would like to pursue my original cooking and focus on creating a quality dish.

Before we finish, please tell us about your dream.

Mr. Miyazaki :
Of course my aim is to gain three stars of Michelin guide. I was pleased to receive one start but I know I can’t stop at this point. I will aim higher by putting pressure on myself and continue working hard. By achieving my aim, I would like to gain two starts first.

(Interviewer: Osamu Saito  Writer: Tomoko Murayama   Photography: Tomoyasu Osakabe)

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/