I think Japanese cuisine has always had this way of thinking, but the very idea of looking at and observing the condition of the ingredient in this way was deeply interesting to me.
For example, if five eels came in, he would cut off the end of each one, label them A through E, steam them, and taste them in advance. Then he would decide the cooking method based on the individual characteristics of each—this one has a strong smell, that one’s meat is tender, and so on.
This kind of cooking takes the raw materials and looks at their individual characteristics, really going into the ingredients. The process of not using the general way of thinking about an ingredient, but starting with the individual differences, was shocking. My first training session was in the winter, so I used my weekends during the summer to go see the summer ingredients, and I went to the celebration when Ryugin got its first Michelin star, gradually showing up there more and more often.