In the kitchen staff who were good people, I was entrusted to the chef de partie of the source department.
What kind of people are amazing members?
In the kitchen of French cuisine there is a sous chef under the chef (chief chef) who is the general manager. Below that, there is a chef de partie who is responsible for each part such as a source place and a meat field etc, but in the case of “Alain Ducasse Tokyo”, there was a position called, main chef de partie who supervised chef de partie. Even those who stand in that position were working at a high-class restaurant in Ginza, which was usually enough to be appointed as chefs.
For me at the time it was a sense that “Even this level of people is the main chef de partie!” The chefs and French chef and 2 Japanese sous chefs were unimaginable people. Motivation to work had been steadily increasing just as people at those levels were at work. It could be said that it was an environment inevitable to desperately need. I could not do a bad job. I could not bother the surrounding chefs with my own fault. In such a tense atmosphere, I had a chance to work as chef de palty of the source department.
Among the staff who was so great, it is amazing that you were assigned to the sauce, which is very important for French cuisine.
It was a challenging task, but as I said earlier every day was desperate.
For example, on my day off main chef de partie acted as a substitute, but, but I thought that I had to prepare firmly so that it would not be a burden as much as possible.
In the unlikely event, if there was something wrong with the source prepared by me, it would cause great inconvenience to those who were asked to substitute. That person was famous and well-known in the industry, so I could not really do bad things. There was a great pressure.
The store at the time was a great success. The hard work was preparing the sauce. Because Ducasse’s shop adopts a very classical sauce making method, it was absolutely impossible to prepare in advance. For the saucepan to make the sauce big ones cannot make really good taste so there was a difficulty to cook with small saucepans. It was not unusual that the source we prepared in the morning was completely killed at noon. In addition to that, it was difficult to prepare the source for the next day at the same time, so I could not make it too much, I remember struggling with the adjustment.
What do you think about the interesting part of making sauces?
Even if it is the same Ducasse recipe, it is source that the taste changes at all by the maker. Why? It is a strange thing to me but it changes. There is also a challenge. I had confidence in the sauce I made and I could not convince the chef without confidence. I would find the best point of delicately different taste from that day, but there was technology. I could not control how much I could reduce the blurring of the taste without experience. I think that it is an exhibition of the skill as a chef to show certain quality constantly.
I think that it was experience of those days that I polished the sense to support that technology. It is only to judge from the information such as color and fragrance whether it will be the best point of the day if you boil down the material that is liquid. It became a big advancement that I was able to understand the feelings I could not express in words.
What was the food of chef of a genius, Pierre Gagnaire?
According to the profile you also have experience working at Pierre Gagnaire’s store.
Next to “Alain Ducasse Tokyo”, I worked at the store of Pierre Gagnaire (※3). Gagnaire was said to be a genius chef. I just wanted to learn that dish. Compared with Orthodox Ducasse, Gagnaire was avant-garde enough to be said as “Picasso in kitchen”, and two people could be said to be 180 degrees different type of chef.
For example, when Ducasse came to Japan, he did not enter the kitchen. He would leave everything to a reliable chef and end up giving advice. On the other hand, Gagnaire enters the kitchen himself and works on cooking when visiting Japan. That figure is impressive full mark. His body is big, but he made dishes more and more while scratching the silver hair and raking it up. Besides, it was surprising because one dish to handle was different every time.
※3: Pierre Gagnaire
French chef who is said to be avant-garde. Despite having bold ideas, he is also said to be Picasso in the kitchen, from delicious flavors and beautiful dishes like paintings. He is also working on a new dish style that incorporates molecular gastronomy.
Is that to make different dishes even in the same order?
For example, if there were 1st table to 10th table, the dishes of Gagnaire are all different. When a meat dish à la carte is ordered, Gagnaire will add not only meat dishes but a couple of side dishes to make a dish, when usually one plate would do.
Characteristics of Gagnaire’s dishes are having overwhelmingly many parts. There are also appetizers in the a la carte dishes, there are fish dishes, meat dishes, etc., so the combination is rich enough to say infinite.
Even if you are watching Gagnaire cooking in front, he adds ingredients that are not in the recipe one by one, so it is not very useful but I can not grasp it. Gagnaire himself cooks as he wishes and then goes greetings to customers saying “Please do it like I did it now”, but what we are already doing is something. On the day that Gagnaire comes, the situation in the kitchen will be tough. However, all of the finished dishes are delicate and artistic. It is because it is said to be Picasso in the kitchen.
Do you think Mr. Gagnaire’s style is for yourself?
I think so. In Orthodox Ducasse’s dishes, even if one of the orientations of the vegetables served is taken, nothing can be arranged. There is aesthetics that is high in the formality and goes through the decisions made.
Cooking in one Gagnaire cherishes freedom. Even the same dish may not necessarily be one way to enjoy. It is the concept of cooking to have people enjoy it by eating. That’s why the cuisine of Gagnaire, there is a new and fun that comes from a combination of various ingredients, there is a discovery every time you eat.
The dish of “Pierre” which I am work as a chef is contemporary rather than classical. While using the Kansai ingredients, we offer deliciousness that incorporates Japanese charm into French cuisine techniques. The playfulness learned from Gagnaire and the stance that customers can enjoy cooking are very great assets for me now.
Of course, what I learned under Ducasse is as great value as I learned from Gagnaire. However, when I saw the dish of Gagnaire, the experience of removing wall-like things for the dishes I had before was great. What I got the discovery that I can express in such a way can not be said without the experience of working at the two great chefs’ shops.
As a chef at Hotel French, winning one Michelin star.
And at last you were invited to the Intercontinental Hotel Osaka and won one Michelin star.
I had been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to experience work as I imagined. When I thought about the next, I felt that I needed a place I could do myself from scratch. I thought that I would like to find new possibilities in places I could think more than I was in a determined way. The Intercontinental Hotel Osaka which was newly opened was perfect for that hope.
I started from a sous-chef and am currently serving as a chef. The thing that was more lucky about was the fact that we were able to win a Michelin star in a period of one and a half years from the opening of the restaurant. When I got contacted, I thought that I appreciated the fact that I continued this job. Since there were various things happened to me, I can only say that word.
What is attractive about restaurants in hotels?
In restaurants in hotels, there are many attractive aspects which you can’t find in private type shops. We can pursue and use the best ingredients. We have a great environment where you can only focus on cooking in the furnished facilities. We have a great team that can serve customers the greatest quality of service. Each one of them can not be found in private type businesses. We do not compromise the interior decoration and choose excellent cooking facility and dishes.
Also in Pierre, we give chefs great authority and discretion. We can create menu freely compared to other private type of shops. Any food that we serve in Pierre is all what I created. About once every two months, I change the menu and choose ingredients and the way of cooking. I get a permission from hotel’s executives after they try my sample cookings but they don’t really give me specific orders. I choose seasonal ingredients freely.a
Also, I think staff management is very important to perform well as a team. As I experienced when I was young, staff can not take days off and are required to work long in private business but labors regulations in hotels are well managed and work environment is organized for staff.
I will not be satisfied with only one start and would like to be bumped up a notch to be able to receive more than two start-worth assessment in the future. I would like to fulfill hotel’s executives’ expectations with my outcomes. I have all these resources I need to achieve it.
(Interview: Takashi Ichihara Writer: Yohei Ueda Photographer: Yasunori Matsui)