When I was 18 years old, I made up my mind to become a chef. When I lost my severe but beloved grandfather, the path to becoming a chef, which had been a nebulous image in my mind, suddenly appeared in front of me.
How have your recipes changed through your experience as a chef?
I create new dishes, setting a time axis from ancient times to the modern day as the vertical X-axis, and Eastern and Western culinary culture in various countries across the world as the horizontal Y-axis. As I accumulate experience as a chef, I feel both the vertical and horizontal axes expand. I am inspired by a wide range of new and old foods from all over the world.
How and where do you find culinary inspiration?
At my desk. I derive inspiration from knowledge gained through my experience of traveling, dining, engaging with ingredients, looking at art and so forth. Although I gain input from all over, my preferred means of output is sitting at my desk and thinking deeply. Inspiration pops up out of nowhere, becomes blurred, and then its and then the resolution gradually sharpens to reveal the form and details more and more clearly. This is how I envision things.
Did you always find mushrooms at the table? Will you tell us about your memories of mushrooms, or the first mushroom dish you had?
Mushrooms were not always at our table, but they very often were, as they were a family favorite. I’m not sure what the first mushroom dish I ate was, and when, but I cook zoni* soup for New Year’s based on a soup stock prepared with a lot of dried mushrooms. I love this once-a-year home-made dish.
*Zoni is a soup dish that contains rice cake and other ingredients, usually eaten by Japanese at New Year’s.
For you, are mushrooms an opulent or a modest ingredient for you?
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. Mushrooms cannot be called either a “rich” or a “poor” food.
If there were only one mushroom available for cooking and eating in the future, which mushroom do you hope it will be? And why?
I’d 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 colorful assortment of mushrooms grows in the small garden in our mountain lodge, although I don’t gather and eat them myself, because I believe I should leave that to experts and professionals. In fact, about ten morilles 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 flavors from from fungi? Can you tell us the method and the necessary ingredients?
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 flavors, physically it would make sense to break them down into tiny bits and infuse (brew) them, but we have to be careful when cooking these, as grinding may produce unfavorable taste notes.
If you serve mushroom dishes for yourself or your friends, what do you serve?
In my private time, I want dishes to be simple!
I sautee several types of mushrooms, freshly gathered from the woods (although I don’t gather them myself), at high heat, and season them with balsamic vinegar, a small amount of soy sauce, salt, pepper and honey. Then, I add walnut oil at the end. If possible, I cook them outside over a fire, near the forest where mushrooms were gathered.
Can you tell us about your personal relationship with mushrooms?
e.g. your experiences with mushroom hunting, or any other stories about 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 autumn foliage, I found a lot of stalls selling wild mushrooms along the road. I would choose mushrooms at stalls and cook them at a campsite at the night. I enjoyed hot, fresh and delicious mushroom dishes in the quiet and cool atmosphere of the mountains.
Can you share your memories of Krug (in a glass or a bottle)?
As long as I live, I’ll never forget drinking Clos d’Ambonnay 2000 while watching the sunset at the Clos d’Ambonnay vineyard.
If you drink Krug, which of the following would you choose: breakfast, lunch, aperitif, or at bedtime? And why?
I’ll drink Krug anytime and anywhere!
Which dish would you choose as a pair with Krug Grande Cuvée?
Dish title: Champignon (fermented and matured), with pigeon ramier
- 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 when you cooked this dish?
I came up with the idea of a mariage* of mushrooms and Krug’s characteristics of fermentation, maturation and complexity. There was a muro (a special room for making koji mold) in my restaurant, because of our family’s enduring tradition of cultivation and fermentation. I got the inspiration for this dish from Japanese pickles, miso pickles, koji (rice mold) pickles, and kasu (sake lees) pickles.
*mariage: a perfect combination of food and wine
Why do you think this dish goes perfectly with Krug Grande Cuvée?
Krug Grande Cuvée and my lovingly chosen mushrooms: fermented and matured, both get into a mariage as if they were cuddled up together. I want to create a wide range of combinations of Krug’s characteristics and a variety of ingredients, including powerful pigeon ramier and crispy biscui as supporting actors in the dish, for people to enjoy.