I am inspired by a wide range of new and old foods from all over the world.
How have your recipes changed through your experience as a Chef?
I plan the new dishes I create around two axes. The X-axis represents Eastern to Western culinary culture across the world, while the Y-axis represents time from ancient to modern day. As I accumulate experience, I feel both the vertical and horizontal axes expand.
How and where do you find culinary inspiration?
At my desk. I derive inspiration from knowledge gained through my traveling, dining, engaging with ingredients, admiring art and so forth.
Did you always find mushrooms at the table? Can you tell us about your memories of mushrooms, or the first mushroom dish you had?
Mushrooms were often at our table, as they were a family favourite. I am not sure what my first mushroom dish was or when, but I cook zoni* soup for New Year’s with a stock prepared from dried mushrooms. I love this once-a-year homemade dish.
*Zoni is a soup dish that contains rice cake and other ingredients, usually eaten by Japanese at New Year’s.
For you, is the mushroom a humble ingredient?
Matsutake mushrooms and truffles are opulent delicacies, while shiitake mushrooms and brown beech mushrooms are common fare. As you know, truffles go together perfectly with simple and inexpensive ingredients such as potatoes and eggs. Ordinary mushrooms can become truly sumptuous when combined with certain ingredients.
If you could pick only one mushroom for cooking and eating in the future, which would it be and why?
I would have to say shiitake mushrooms, which are a popular and essential ingredient in Japanese cooking. They don’t have a strong personality, but they have a simple and pleasant taste. When dried, they produce a wonderful aroma and are packed with umami.
Where is the best place you know of to obtain mushrooms? Do you have a secret location or supplier?
At the foot of Mt. Fuji, a colourful assortment of mushrooms grows in the small garden in our mountain lodge. However, I do not gather or eat them because I believe I should leave that to experts. In fact, about ten morels a year grow in the garden of my restaurant. They are a delight I look forward to every year.
Are there any special methods for bringing out the greatest possible variety of flavours from a mushroom?
This may not be such a special method, but drying them is the best way to make them tastier. I think the most effective way is to dry them in the sun when the humidity and temperature are lowest, but I often use a freeze-drying machine to get consistent results. To draw out fantastic flavours, physically it would make sense to break them down into tiny bits and infuse (brew) them, but we have to be careful when cooking, as grinding may produce undesirable tastes.
Which mushroom dishes would you serve for yourself or friends?
I would sauté several types of mushrooms, freshly gathered from the woods, at high heat and season them with balsamic vinegar, a small amount of soy sauce, salt, pepper and honey. Then, I would add walnut oil at the end. If possible, I would cook them outside over a fire, near the forest where mushrooms were gathered.
Can you tell us about your personal experiences with mushrooms?
When I was young, I often enjoyed camping and traveling with a tent. In autumn, when I headed for a campsite deep in the mountains to see the seasonal foliage, I found many stalls selling wild mushrooms along the road. I would choose mushrooms cook them at a campsite at night so I could enjoy hot, fresh and delicious mushroom dishes in the quiet and cool atmosphere of the mountains.
Can you share your memories of Krug?
As long as I live, I will never forget drinking Krug Clos d’Ambonnay 2000 while watching the sunset at the Clos d’Ambonnay vineyard. Dish title: Champignon (fermented and matured), with pigeon ramier
Main ingredients: Tokachi mushroom (white mushroom), Tokachi mushroom (black mushroom), White mushroom dried powder, Porcino dried powder, Nameko mushroom, Pigeon ramier (Moribato) from Scotland, Pain de campagne (homemade), Champagne (Krug, Champagne yeast, Camargue salt, Grape-leaf roasted powder
What was your inspiration behind your dish?
The idea was to create a marriage of mushrooms and Krug around the notion of fermentation that would accentuate the Champagne’s maturity and complexity. My restaurant has a special room to grow the koji fungus – used in the fermentation of soybeans, rice and grains – which is an enduring tradition in my family. I got my inspiration from Japanese pickles, miso pickles, koji pickles, and kasu (sake lees) pickles.
Why do you think this dish goes perfectly with Krug Grande Cuvée?
Krug Grande Cuvée and my lovingly chosen mushrooms, fermented and matured, make an intimate food marriage. I also wanted to accentuate the many facets of Krug by using a variety of ingredients, including powerful pigeon ramier and crispy biscuits as supporting actors in the dish.