Incorporating Japanese and French cuisine into authentic Chinese cuisine, bringing a new perspective to Chinese cuisine with carefully chosen ingredients

Chugokusai S.Sawada

Sawada Shuhei

Chugokusai S.Sawada Sawada Shuhei


Gaining experiences in various restaurants and expanding his visions as a chef

What kind of experiences did you gain after coming back to Japan?

Mr. Sawada
There was a Nagoya branch of Fook Lam Moon Group opening and I worked there for one year. I also worked at Fuan Long Yuen for two and a half years, and then at Grand Hyatt Tokyo for two and a half years.
When I was started to think about working at a high class restaurant, I got an offer to work as a head chef at Joe’s Shanghai New York in the Grand Front building in Osaka. I was able to start as an opening staff member there. It was a commercial facility so my work was very hard every day since the opening.

Was there anything you struggled with after your experiences at these various restaurants?

Mr. Sawada :
I struggled with defining my position.  When I start working at an already existing restaurant, there were many co-workers who have started working there earlier than me.
I usually decided to move to a different restaurant when I started feeling that there’s nothing left here to learn, nothing left to improve myself with, no higher positions to move to. However, in some ways, it could be seen that I was running from my work because I always left before getting to that stage.

I mentioned earlier, but my family was made of four brothers and my mother was a single mother. I struggled more when I was a kid. My work wasn’t anywhere near as hard as what I experienced as a kid was.
I wasn’t able to earn any money or do anything when I was a child.
After growing up, you can do whatever you want if you put your mind to it and face your difficulties head on.

Did you start thinking that you’d like to have your own restaurant at that time?

Mr. Sawada :
Two years and a half had passed since I had started working at Joe’s Shanghai New York in the Grand Front building in Osaka. And again, I felt I wouldn’t be able to gain anything more there.
At that time, I started thinking about running a place all by myself.

Chugokusai S.Sawada Sawada Shuhei


Please tell me about your experiences as head chef at Chuka Shunsai Sawada in Shinsaibashi.

Mr. Sawada :
At the same time that I starting thinking about running my own restaurant, my friend asked me if I knew anyone who could work as a head chef at a Chinese restaurant in Shinsaibashi for an owner he knew. So, I told him I could.
However, I faced a lot of difficulties that I hadn’t in the past. But, these experiences were helpful when I finally opened my own restaurant….
I had experience working at newly opened restaurants but, this restaurant was located in the city, not in a famous building or hotel where many people gather. I was like a fish out of water.
The hotels and famous buildings were places where there were many customers gathered already at the beginning. And so, many customers came.
The new, unknown restaurant in the city didn’t have many customers at the beginning. Haha.
It had a capacity of 50 people but there were about four to five days in the first five months when there were no customers booked for dinner. We had only one or two groups a day. It was very hard for us to gather customers.
We handed out fliers but there were still about three to four months that we didn’t have customers.

How did you overcome the hard times?

Mr. Sawada :
After about four or five months, the restaurant was written up in some magazines such as Meets, and shown on some TV shows. Finally, some customers started coming in.
A year after the opening, the restaurant became popular enough that we were fully booked. Many customers were lining up in front of our restaurant. That was also a hard situation, though. Haha.
At that point, I realized it was good that I had not opened my own restaurant yet.
If I had opened my restaurant using my savings, I probably wouldn’t have been able to overcome those difficult five months of no customers.

It was good practice?

Mr. Sawada :
If I hadn’t had that experience, I wouldn’t have become where I am now.
I was able to realize that I didn’t have many connections or networking skills to gather people and I was able to learn how difficult it is to overcome the grand opening of a restaurant which is unknown in a small city.
After that, I started participating in meetup events and networking events. As a businessman, I handed out many business cards. I joined a party for Chef Yamane of Ponte Vecchio, a chef that I admired, and handed out about 100 business cards there. Haha.
I realized I needed to market myself before opening my own restaurant.

Chugokusai S.Sawada interior

*Those photos are provided from the restaurant.

How did the opening of “Chugokusai S.Sawada” go?

Mr. Sawada :
We opened in November, 2016. I really appreciate that we have been fully booked since our opening. It’s been only a year and a half but we’ve been able to get Michelin stars too.

I had a hard experience at the opening of Chuka Shunsai Sawada in that small city and that’s why I wanted to start my restaurant after making sure I have customers who want to visit.  So, I held a week-long opening reception event for our grand opening.

A week-long! That’s a long time. It must have cost a lot.

Mr. Sawada :
I provided the food for free so it cost more than a million yen. However, the customers who came to the reception enjoyed eating for free. And then, they promoted the restaurant through word of mouth or on SNS a lot. Haha.

My friends said, “You always appear on my Facebook feed.” Many customers came to the restaurant and everybody was talking about it.

Handing out my business card was also a good strategy. My customers gave it to their friends and customers so I was able to make a line of more customers. There was a lot of, “So-and-so says this restaurant is good so let’s give it a try!”

Also thanks to the reception event, I was able to create connections with new customers from existing customers. And so, I didn’t need to struggle to gather customers from the opening.

Also, my signature crispy chicken dish at the restaurant was famous for being pleasant on the eyes and might be a part of my success. It’s a whole roasted chicken so it leaves an impact on customers and many post photos.

It was hard to find the best chicken for the dish. Not too big, perfect thickness of the skin. But the dish became one the most important to gather customers.

Chugokusai S.Sawada appearance

Chugokusai S.Sawada


Inquiry
+81-6-6809-1442

Access
New Masago Bldg 1F 4-6-28 Nishitenma Kita-ku Osaka-shi Osaka
8 min walk from Kitahama station on Subway Sakaisuji line
Hours
Lunch 11:30-13:00 (L.O.)

Dinner 17:00-21:00 (L.O.)
Closed
Irregular holidays