To aim for “yakitori” to become a word that can be understood all over the world. He is a pioneer of the yakitori cuisine world who pursues his way without thinking too much about common sense or past precedent.

Birdland
Wada Toshihiro

Birdland Wada Toshihiro

When you find a good restaurant, you visit it often and become a favorite customer. If you try to look for negative aspect, you won’t ble able to learn anything.

If you become a frequent customer, your point of view is changed and they start serving some different dishes.

Mr. Wada :
I think you will be able to learn about food if you visit the same restaurant many times. If you become a favorite customer there, they may serve you something different. They may teach you the philosophy of cooking, saying things like, “We used to do this kind of work in my generation…” Even if the restaurant serves a different kind of cuisine, they will teach you many things, as if they are your professor! When you meet someone you think is great, they will have a lot of knowledge. You can learn a lot if you visit them in a different season or eat the same food many times.

I heard that when chefs visit a restaurant, they are “outed” as being the the same industry very soon. Is that true?

Mr. Wada :
People don’t realize I am a chef! I guess it is because I behave normally.
If they realize you are a chef, you are trying to find something negative – “This is bad, that is dirty.” Customers other than chefs usually have different reactions, such as, “That dish looks delicious!” The point of view is already different.  When customers visit the restaurant because they have a positive outlook, they naturally look for something positive. When I eat at a restaurant, I enjoy the food and positive aspects of the restaurant.
I overreact and try to give out an aura that says, “Please serve me something extraordinary!” I compliment the food and show how much I enjoy it. And, the restaurant chefs would say “You really like eating! If you visit us again, we’ll cook something like that for you!”
At about the third visit, I am asked what kind of job I have and I tell them I own a yakitori restaurant. They are always surprised when I tell them that!

Did you always have that stance when it comes to eating out?

Mr. Wada :
Well, I used to visit restaurants to look for negative points from the start.
One day, my friend asked me where I went to eat. I told him I went this restaurant and he said next, “How was it?” I was a bit stunned, and couldn’t say anything!
At that time, I recalled what I was supposed to do there.
Then another friend of mine came and said “Did you eat that dish at the restaurant? Everybody who goes there always orders it!” When he said that, I could only respond, “I didn’t realize…”
Through these experiences, I realized I wouldn’t gain anything if I tried to look for the negative parts. There are no perfect restaurants. However, there are customers who love these restaurants. There is always a reason in it. On my limited days off, it is a waste of my money and time to visit them to look for negative aspects. I would like to gain something instead.

Birdland

If you change your point of view, you will be able to gain important information.

It is not easy to find so-called “trends,” which also vary from restaurant to restaurant. Is there any strategy to find what will become more or less popular?

Mr. Wada :
Actually, it is not that difficult to find what is coming and going. If you try to find out, you will be able to do so easily, eventually.
The most important thing is to enjoy what you are doing. Customers are enjoying the food so you also need to enjoy. Eventually you will be able to find out what is good about the restaurant. Then you can enjoy it together. Also, you need to find the restaurant’s favorite customers. Even if they don’t talk that much, there is always someone who is loved by the restaurant. You need to think and see what they eat and why they are a favorite.

Did you used to go to yakitori restaurants before?

Mr. Wada :
Actually I don’t visit any yakitori restaurants after realizing that I wouldn’t be able to learn anything.

What do you mean by that?

Mr. Wada :
At the beginning, I used to eat out at yakitori restaurants. I was fascinated by Isehiro the most. The idea of cooking a whole chicken and use all the parts of it is excellent. I was going to use only game fowl. I thought about which part of a chicken I would use and wouldn’t use. It was a bad idea. It is a normal thing that a whole chicken is used in the restaurant. It was a great study for me.  However, I realized that customers don’t compare yakitori restaurants to one another. They go to sushi restaurants, tempura restaurants, French restaurants and Chinese restaurants. I needed to think about how I could attract customers who go to many different cuisine restaurants and make them think, “This is a good yakitori restaurant.” So I thought it wouldn’t be a good study for me to visit restaurants serving the same cuisine. I needed to think about how to be recognized as a good restaurant. Why do those who know a lot of good restaurants think “This is a good restaurant”? I realized I needed to have that kind of point of view.

I see. So you need to look at the customers around you to learn a better point of view.

Mr. Wada :
I need to understand the tiny difference between “good yakitori” for those who eat a lot of quality food and “good yakitori” for those who have been in the yakitori cuisine world deeply. The best outcome of eating out to study food is when you understand the tiny difference, I think.

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