Even in my dreams, I’m thinking about how to delight and surprise my customers.
Put emotion into cooking
Many dishes in Japanese cuisine are derived from cha-kaiseki and vegetarian dishes, but they do not have the power to attract the young. I always want to go on creating dishes that will move people. If you emphasize tradition, the dishes for the seasons are already decided. But that’s not interesting. When you produce dishes, they’re no good without emotion and novelty. I gave up being an “Iron Chef” because I thought repetitive use of the same cooking techniques, varying only the ingredients, was meaningless. Without creativity, I grew tired of the repetition.
Since I was a child, I’ve always been thinking about the next way to delight and amaze others. I love thinking up ways of doing things. For example, if I was appointed as a chef to welcome Queen Elizabeth, where would I do it, and how would I arrange it? What flowers would be right? What should I cook, and how? What could I do to surprise her? I enjoy thinking about things like that. That’s why I sometimes write menus in my dreams. Sometimes I serve them to my guests the next day.
Ingredients are borderless, but the basics of cooking are important
There is the saying “wakon yosai” (Japanese spirit, Western technology), but my philosophy is that ingredients are borderless. These days, logistical networks are well developed, so we can get ingredients from around the world. Just because the ingredients are foreign, I don’t believe we have to adopt foreign methods to go with them. We can use whatever ingredients we like with our own methods. That leads to unprecedented discoveries. Shark fin is used now in Japanese food, but I was the first to do that. It used to be that Japanese desserts were no more than a slice of melon, but I devised menus of Japanese desserts. These days, ordinary menus of Japanese food include many dishes that were Michiba originals.
You should know your own style and devise your own cuisine. That’s interesting, and the food tastes good. Food that you think of and work hard to create is good fun. On the other hand, food that the cook doesn’t enjoy is no good. Now when I cook, I figure out my own ways of realizing my own ideas, but at first I was strictly trained in the basics of Japanese cuisine. I absolutely followed those above me, until I became the chief. Now there are many restaurants for innovative cuisine, but you can always tell food made by someone who lacks grounding in the basics. It’s just shaky. There aren’t many good restaurants.
The key thing in cooking is the balance of good flavor and easy eating. Good flavor goes without saying, but you also have to pay attention to making it easy for your guest to eat. And the restaurant must by hygienic and clean. The fixtures can stay the same for 100 years. They just get refined over time. It’s folly to chase after fashions. Just think serious about how to delight the customers, and work on that. The basics are the same, even after a hundred years, or two hundred.
During the interview, he got a sudden idea, exclaimed “Aha!”, and disappeared into the kitchen. His ideas keep bubbling to the surface, and he instructs the head cook “tomorrow, do it like this, make it like that”. I was surprised by every dish I sampled, which made me realize how much I am bound by fixed ideas. The Japanese Iron Chef was also a genius with a head sparkling with new ideas.
3rd of Jan. 1931 : Born in Yamanaka Onsen, Ishikawa Prefecture.
1950 : Began training in earnest towards the goal of becoming a chef.
1971 : Opened Rokusantei in Ginza.
1993 : Became the first to hold the position of Japanese Iron Chef on the Fuji TV show Ryori no Tetsujin (“Ironmen of Cooking”), achieving a record of 27 wins, three losses and one draw. He won all the Iron Chef titles, including the World Cup at Ariake, the final in Hong Kong and the Ultimate Ironman Final.
2000 : Opened Kaishoku Michiba as a new style of Japanese cuisine in Ginza.
2005 : Awarded the “Contemporary Master Craftsman” award for outstanding skill from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.
2006 : Invited to a garden party by the Imperial Household Agency, where the Emperor spoke to him.
2007 : Awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette (fourth class)