Traditional and modern. How do you face the various techniques?
What do you think about traditional cooking procedure?
My food is just Italian cuisine. There are always 5 kinds of soups made by traditional cooking methods, but it does not mean I stick to the traditions. In order to make my ideal taste, I sometimes use modern techniques.
For example, it is an extract method. When I cook minestrone, I use vegetable juice first and cook without using water to express the richer taste of vegetables. If I cook ragout sauce for lamb in the traditional way, the meat gets dry, so I put them all in a mixer and add meat and eggplant after cooking separately. I try to make my ideal taste by extracting the goodness of the materials. That is the modern Italian way I think.
My ideal food is that it looks simple, but there are many techniques that are hidden within, but it makes people feel it is truly delicious when they eat.
Besides that, I think curiosity is very important. I am the type of a person who is always looking around for something interesting.
So I like going to various areas to look around. I found Matsutake, that I use for my cooking now, when I went to Yunnan Province, China. When I saw it, I thought it looked like a mushroom that grows on the Chiodini tree.
Chiodini is a mushroom that goes well with pasta and meat, and in Japan, Matsutake is eaten in soup or grilled but not with seafood, right? But I thought it would add an impressive aroma to lobster, so I used it.
When thinking of new combinations of taste, how do you do it?
When I consider a kind of taste, of course, I consider the balance of sour and sweetness but what I consider the most is the taste itself. I cook and eat it, then add to it, little by little. I cook like that.
And the sense of taste that I depend on is not from my childhood, but rather the current taste updated by food I eat everyday.
How do you distinguish between traditional and contemporary techniques?
For example, when I was training for several months at a French restaurant in America, something happened. It was a restaurant with full of using modern techniques, in other words, a snob restaurant. When I was there, I cooked very classic lasagna for staff meals.
When I placed it on the table, the chefs looked at it like, “What is this disgusting food?”.
But actually they liked it very much. The owner chef’s mother said, “It was the most delicious lasagna in my life. Who cooked it?”.
Sometimes old techniques are better than new techniques. Classic techniques are within me. Classic cooking has a long history being handed down over the years. It has remained even after an age.
Molecular (Molecular cooking) of course, was fun and impacted the world of cooking but it will remain after 50 years, right? That is because it has no background.
Personally, I do not use molecular techniques at all. Techniques such as using chemicals as stabilizers do not match with my policy of “Using natural ingredients and bringing out the taste of them”. Of course, when I have to heat for long hours in low-temperature cooking, I use a vacuum cooker, but there are tools to express the taste that I want to bring out, and I don’t think about cooking something tricky.
Crisis is the process of change, the bad is the beginning of a good thing.There is not much that I think is tough.
You haven’t ever had any difficulties?
Well… There is not much that I felt was difficult for me.
I think such things as working long hours are quite commonplace for me.
For example, a life crisis, I think is not bad. When a big crisis comes, people think it over and change their way of thinking. Sometimes they encounter a crisis that makes them feel like they want to kill themselves. But we think and think until we can overcome the problem. Crisis is a process of change and I always think something bad is the beginning of a good thing.
Then, is there anything that you feel is difficult?
What I think is most difficult now is to see the best timing to the ingredients.
That is because I always think that I want the best condition of the ingredients to bring out the taste.
Please name one food that you feel has perfect balance.
It is sushi. The rice texture, taste, and the fish in perfect condition and sliced in the perfect way. The person who invented sushi is wonderful. I hope my food is enjoyed all around the world like sushi and is remembered in history, but I am not sure if it will be.