The strength of the 8-restaurant group in Kitashinchi
Is there anything else you are particular about while doing a job?
Probably not being wasteful with things. That also includes time. Using only great ingredients to cook with might be ideal in some ways, but I don’t think it’s so great. From the skin to the tip of a daikon radish… there are parts that aren’t so tasty. But depending on how you use it, you can bring out the quality of each part. We live in a “throwaway” era, so that sort of awareness is getting weaker and weaker. However, for oden soup, and staff meals and such, I try to take the leftover parts and come up with some way to use them. This improves the flow and creates a cycle. I think that by doing so, I want to become able to offer better things to customers.
And keeping things tidy and in order is important. If you can’t do this, then you can never do a good job . By training, you know what is where, and you become able to imagine what’s inside the refrigerator without even opening it. And that’s not limited to this restaurant; I have become able to imagine the way things are at all eight of the Kagaman group restaurants. I can imagine, “Around this time at the main branch, there is that, and at that restaurant, there is this.” I’ve become able to use the strength of the entire group. That’s why, when a customer has a request, saying “You don’t have this sort of thing?” I can ask someone from another restaurant to bring it to me, even if I don’t have it at my restaurant.
That really is the strength you can only get from a group, and not just a single restaurant, huh!
That’s true. Kitashinchi is a really special place, and we get various orders from well-versed customers with expensive tastes. There’s a lot of value in answering to those orders flexibly, and we even get happy about it.
Taking the world stage with the techniques of Japanese cuisine
Is there an ideal team, in your opinion?
A team in which all of the staff members share and understand some important things. If you get that aspect down, then even when each person is doing their job freely in their own way, you can have a feeling of trust. And I think I have to pass on those important core aspects steadfastly through my daily words and actions.
What, concretely, are those “important things” you want everyone to share?
I want the customers to have a sense of relief. I want them to come into my restaurant and relax and have peace of mind. It’s not just serving food. I want to be considerate, and verbally check in with customers a bit. It may be that each individual thing is not a big deal, but I want the customer to feel the kindness and warmth of the entire restaurant through such actions of individual staff members. However, behind the counter where we are is one setting, so it’s necessary to modulate yourself. You may have to be persistently strict in terms of your job, and then be warm when facing customers.
Is there anything you keep in mind regarding educating staff members?
The strict way of doing things from the past just makes people tense… I am always aware of creating an atmosphere that will bring out the individual quality of staff members with different personalities. And if I can get them to properly remember the fundamentals, I can often trust the methods of each mature staff member and leave things to them. In doing so, those staff members who have grown eventually become independent. I’m happy when they leave the nest of the restaurant, and I’m also a little jealous. [laughs]
Is there any type of person you’d like to try to work with?
It’s very rewarding to teach a young person who has no knowledge of cooking whatsoever, from scratch. Actually, more so than with a person who has studied at a cooking school and has a lot of knowledge, I can often feel the great possibilities for a person who is honest and can handle anything, even though they have no knowledge. Now is an era in which the culture of Japanese cuisine is in the world spotlight. This has been a dream of mine for a long time, but I wish there were more people taking the world stage who have those consistent techniques.
(interviewer:Osamu Saito writer:Ikegawa Keiko photographer:Osaka Kengo)