********** Yoshinori Ishii Executive chef of Japanese restaurant UMU in London ******************

------------------ 英国の日本料理店 UMU 総料理長 石井義典 のつれづれなる話 ------------


The Epicure at Dolder grand in Zurich チューリッヒでのイベント


I was invited to join q yearly culinary event, The Epicure, at the luxurious hotel Dolder Grand in Zurich.

Chefs from Michelin-started restaurants all around Europe gathered and created collaborating dishes especially for the occasion, enjoyed at the main dining experience. The event also offered wine and cigar seminars, as well as stand-up buffet style party at a magnificent venue on the final day, where a number of participating restaurants each brought its speciality dishes.

My choice of creation for this event were Kombu (kelp) cured Atlantic Char and grilled Parch fillet; freshwater fish was my immediate choice of ingredients for the occasion, considering the event would be held in Switzerland – knowing locally caught fish is sourced from lakes, and to benefit from my previous experience serving under UN ambassador in Geneva.

Led by the Executive chef Heiko Nieder, each one of the hotel staff was extremely cooperative, allowed me to be part of the event and enjoy in stress-free atmosphere, credit also equally goes to exceptionally organised operation. Much gratitude for the invitation to the Dolder Grand and its entire staff.

年に一度、チューリッヒのラグジェリーホテル、Dolder grand hotel で行われる料理イベント、The Epicureに招待されました。ヨーロッパ中から、ミシュランの星付レストランのシェフが集まり、彼らのメインダイニングでのコラボレーション料理、ワインやシガーの講習、最終日の複数のレストランが 大きな会場でそれぞれの料理を持ち寄った立食パーティーという構成でした。

Geneveで国連大使の下で働いていた経験から、淡水魚で料理を組み立てたいと思い、北極岩魚(Arctic char)の昆布締めとパーチ(Parch)のフィレの焼いたものを提供しました。

エグゼクティブシェフ、Heiko Nieder氏をはじめ、全てのホテルスタッフが非常に協力的で、とてもよくオーガナイズされたイベントで、まったくストレスを感じることなく、楽しくイベントに参加することが出来ました。招待してくれたDeldor grand hotelとそのスタッフに感謝感激でした。




Traditional fishing at the River Severn 、Severn 川での伝統鮭漁

Not too long ago, our supplier for eel fry and wild Atlantic salmon, Dai, had taken me to see authentic Welsh fishing as well as elver fishing at The River Severn. My wish to also see traditional salmon fishing at his turf – the River Severn – ever since our conversation in his car has finally come true.
The River Severn is the longest river in the United Kingdom, which springs in Wales and flows into Bristol in England. Its outfall forms a giant cove together with nearby Bristol Channel, the river itself is massive in width and has the World’s 2nd greatest tidal variation. The difference in water level between at ebb and high tide on the day of spring tide reaches impressive 15 meters. Looking down from a bridge on A40, you see a gigantic estuaryr at full tide, which transforms into spacious tidal flats at ebb tide.
My guide this time around was Horace Cook, a father of Richard, CEO of Severn & Wye Smokery, where Dai acts as an ambassador. Since the foundation of the company, Richard and him have predominantly dealt locally caught salmon and eel fry as well as those caught in Wales or suburbs of Bristol, cities with good transporting connection to Gloucester where the company situates. While the main focus is to produce smoked products from eel or salmon, their business is highly diversified, extends to being a fishmonger, a restaurateur and farming eel fry. There’s also a successful project, which we were lucky enough to participate once, to use hands of local kids to release farmed eel elvers into a lake in Wales every year, where the specie is already extinct. All drainage, a byproduct of a processing plant, is sprinkled at the company’s farm, encouraging healthy and rapid growth of pasture, allowing 4 harvests a year.
For a river that is remarkably wide, a pathway leading to the fishing spot where baits contrived for salmon is so narrow that a car can barely pass. The scenery suddenly opens up and changes to a view of estuary lying right in front of your eyes. The width is so extensive that a sense of distance to the opposite bank becomes lost, and turbid water continues to flow tirelessly, both like a river stream and tidal stream. The water is reddish-brown in colour due to strong current constantly coming and going simultaneously with the rise and fall of tide. How salmon manages to unmistakably swim upstream in such condition is still a mystery.
A method used in salmon fishing is called putcher fishing; cone-shaped baskets are set between stakes placed 20 meters from the shoulder of the river, facing upper stream. Salmon, before heading upstream, hovers in brackish water zone for some time, in order to familiarise and become able to shift from seawater to fresh water. A head of salmon is trapped in the cone-shaped basket as it enters the contrived device while swimming downwards to the sea along powerful oceanic current, simply becomes unable to exit due to heavy force generated by stream from behind. 
A question arose while observing; Why the device is set only 20 meters away from the bank of the river when its width exceeds few hundreds meters. According to Horace, Salmon, naturally led by southwesterly winds, swims back and forth between the immense ocean and its birth-river, and its downward route towards the sea is commonly within a whisker of the bank on this side of river. Horace also believes only sufficient number of salmon should be caught, not to sweep up all trafficking fish.
Salmon is a creature with many mysteries including a unique behaviour to return to its birthplace as a full-grown fish after crossing the sea while growing, yet also very high in locality, developing relationships with diverse endemic human kinds all around the world.

A legend or a folklore regarding salmon exists everywhere and always a delight to encounter. Contemporary version of the putcher fishing’s basket is metallic, as oppose to an original basket made out of twigs of indigenous plants of Britain picked from the hedge. By tracing back the family-line of current fishermen, a data will prove the ancestors fished at exact same spot as far back as 400 years ago, and a record also shows this particular fishing tradition dates back to the Roman era.
Horace says the current Salmon fishing licence at the River Severn given by the British authority only retains its validity until the end of this generation and will not be passed on to the next. Dai regularly mentions overall numbers of upstreaming salmon in the river almost reaching the standard of old days, as well as natural resource is recovering in good rate. It is saddening that, nonetheless, a tradition with hundreds of years of history will be lost, in the good name of pro-environmental movement.

Severn川はウェールズを源とし、イングランドのBristol 近くに流れ込む英国で最も長い河川です。河口付近はブリストルチャネルから続く非常に大きな入り江になっており、広大な川幅と世界第二位の干満差があります。大潮の日は干潮と満潮の水面差が15メートルにもなるそうで、国道A40にかかる橋から川を見下ろすと満潮時は大河となっており、干潮時は大きく干潟が広がっています。
今回はDai氏がAmbassadorを務める会社、Severn & Wye smokery の社長、Richardのお父さんHorace Cook氏に案内をしてもらいました。彼は会社を起こしてからRichardと共に近郊で獲れる鮭、稚鰻、また、会社のあるGloucesterが交通の要であることから、主にWalesやブリストル近郊などで獲れる魚でビジネスをしてきました。鰻や鮭の燻製をメインに作っていながら、鮮魚の販売、レストラン経営、稚鰻の育成など多岐にわたります。以前私たちも参加した育成した稚鰻を既に絶滅してしまったWalesの湖に子供たちの手によって毎年放流し続ける事業も成功させています。魚の処理施設から出た排水は全て自社の農場に撒き、そこで育てた牧草は発育がよく、年4回の収穫ができるそうです。
鮭漁の仕掛けはPutcher fishingと呼ばれ、バスケットと呼ばれる円錐形の籠が川岸から約20mほどの間に立てられた杭の間に複数上流を向けて備え付けられていました。鮭は川に登る前に汽水域でしばらくの間少しずつ海水から淡水に体をなじませるために行ったりきたりするそうですが、強い海流と共に海に下る最中ににその仕掛けの中に体が入ると円錐形の籠に頭をとられ、後方からの流れに押されて逃げ出すことができなくなるようになっているという極めてシンプルなものでした。
見ると同時に沸いてきた疑問は“なぜ何百メートルもある川の中で川岸からほんの20mほどに仕掛けを掛けるのか?”ということでした。Horace 氏曰く、“鮭は南西の風の方向を選んで大きな海、生まれた川を行き来する。海に下る時に通る道筋は川の中でも常にこちら岸すれすれになる。また、川を通る魚を獲るのも全てを獲ってしまうのではなく、自分達に必要なだけ取れればいい。”とのことでした。
Horace 氏の話では現在、英国の政府から与えられているSevern川での鮭漁のライセンスは今の漁師の代で最後となり、次の世代には受け継がれないそうです。Dai氏にいつも聞いていますが川全体の鮭の遡上数は昔の水準まで戻ってきており、資源は回復しているにもかかわらず、環境保護などの観点から折角何百年も続いた伝統を絶やすことは悲しいことです。


Japanese cuisine goodwill Ambassador 日本食普及の親善大使 

Despite an announcement has already been made public last month, it was on 20/05 I received an official statement from Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, appointing me as Japanese cuisine goodwill Ambassador

To serve Japanese food outside the land of Japan inevitably correlates with imparting virtues of Japanese cuisine to multinational guests, first-handedly on a daily basis. 18 years have past since I departed from my homeland started as an Official residence cook for UN Ambassador, and now an Executive Head chef at a restaurant here in London, I have always valued most, and still do, gratification of guests in front me, which in my undoubting and continuing belief is the essence of Kaiseki cuisine.

Whether at the restaurant or the past events in respective countries, Ive always tackled, in my own ways I trusted most suitable, to reach as many ears as possible with the beaut of Japanese cuisine.  Indifferently from now too, I will stand firm on my own unique methods and to continue to devote myself. 



World gourmet summit 2016 20th year  ワールドグルメサミット2016“20周年記念”

I was summoned as a master chef at the biggest culinary festival in Asia, Would Gourmet Summit, held in Singapore.

The tasks given to me here were to hold a master class on the first day and give a presentation, later to turn presented dishes into a luncheon, as well as to serve Kaiseki course at Chinese restaurant Tóng Lè Private Dining 4days in a row from that night.

At the early stage of creating a menu, it came to my attention that ingredients unattainable in London market would be available although local fishes are unsuitable to be prepared raw. Consequently, I decided to return to my origin and have seafood shipped from Japan, also in means to make Japanese ingredients known.

After the Great East Japan Earthquake, I have always been concerned, as a fellow Japanese, for not taking further actions to support other than participating in charity events at London or eagerly promoting foods from Japan. To cast greater mission on myself, I set a theme called Remember Tohoku, and committed to use ingredients that are unique to Tohoku (Northeast Japan) and prepare its local cuisine with my spin on it Sagohachizuke (pickled in Koji) with swordfish from Kesen-numa (region in Miyagi), Masu salmon from Tohoku thin-sliced frozen (known as Ru.Ipe) to be included into the course. 

Urakasumi, a sake brewery from Miyagi, sympathised with my take and joined in to supply sake while giving presentation on Tohokus current state, furthermore suggesting sake paring with the Kaiseki course at the restaurant. I was doubly grateful that their participation also led to coverage by Japanese media, allowing my view to be broadcasted and heard.

I have to admit, I naturally had a series of concerns at the beginning considering serving Kaiseki cuisine at a setting of Chinese restaurant, yet those were wiped off by welcoming smiles of staffs of Tóng Lè Private Dining and their profound wills to help. Their hospitality was both heartfelt and professional, having to prep together from early mornings and exhausting themselves with dinner services, and yet giving us a tour of many unmissable spots. Thanks to them, we got to experience and enjoy Singapore.
   Indifferently this time around, the event succeeded by the supports from uncountable number of people, I thanked all participants each and every day.


今回の私に与えられた課題は初日の昼にマスタークラスとしてのプレゼンテーションとそこで作る料理でのランチョン、その夜から4日間続けて中国料理店“Tóng Lè Private Dining ”での懐石料理の提供でした。

東日本大震災後、ロンドンで行ったチャリティーディナーや食材の積極利用以外なにも行っていないことは同じ日本人として、常に気になっていましたので、更に自分に課題を与えようとの食材を使って東北の郷土料理を私風にアレンジしたものを楽しんでもらおうと“Remember Tohoku”と題し、気仙沼産のメカジキを三五八漬けにしたものや、東北で獲れた桜鱒のルイベ料理を懐石の中に入れ込みました。 
計画時点では中国料理店での懐石料理のサービスということもあり、不安が多くありましたが、“Tóng Lè Private Dining ”のスタッフは非常に協力的でいつも笑顔で私たちを心から暖かく迎え、手伝ってくれました。彼らの心づくしは本当にプロフェッショナルで、朝から一緒に仕込みをし、夜サービスが終わった後にはシンガポール中のいろいろなスポットに連れまわしてくれ、様々な楽しい経験をすることが出来ました。



Oxford Anagama Kiln Project オックスフォード穴窯プロジェクト

A group of ceramic artists, centering recognized living national treasure Mr. Jun Isezaki, came together with University of Oxford and Whichford Pottery to jointly create Anagama, a Japanese style ancient kiln dug into the side of hill, within the campus of the University.
Since few months back, the plan, named “Oxford Anagama Kiln Project”, has been carried out in conjunction by a Japanese team led by up and coming artist Mr. Kazuya Ishida and a team of locals.
Kazuya, who helped significantly at the event “Presenting Japan” and showcased wonderful performance, sent over china clay suitable for the use of Anagama kiln. I had worked on pieces in real earnest since the beginning of this year with the particular clay, and I took a field trip to Oxford as I was offered to include few of my pieces into the kiln’s first bake.

Situated in a forest about 10 minutes away from the station, two different sized kilns line up next to an atelier and a caravan used as an accommodation. I could easily assume that the amount of effort poured into building the entire set up on a vacant plot of land was remarkably great.

Jim from Whichford Pottery was in the middle of filling the kiln, and all staff, both the team from Japan including Kazuya and the locals, worked relentlessly to load mountainous piles of wares.
I had a chance to chat with Robin, a chief of the University team, and he shared that all wood used to fuel the kiln is timber from thinning out the forest within the campus. Thinning out is necessary treatment in order to keep healthy trees yet rarely practiced as the byproduct ends up going to waste. The project gave new means to the thinning lumber as well as helps keeping the trees well treated. 

Moreover, we also conversed in depth about recognising the enormous potential this project carries in means of cultural progression for both Japan and Britain, and shared my intention to participate in any measure from chef’s stand point, who actually work closely with tableware.
The kiln was soon fired up, and I waited with much excitement to hold the pieces from the first bake after 10 days of firing period.  

10 days later, the joint team’s first bake in a climbing kilm had successfully completed, and Kazuya kindly delivered my pieces before his flight back to Japan.
Unlike any baked colour from any region of production in Japan, the finished colour was outstandingly unique and well exceeded my expectation. Taking my molding technique out of question for now, I cannot thank Mr. Ishida enough for the wonderful piece who made this work possible with much endeavor along the way.
Furthermore, while the vase he previously created for Umu using other kiln had been an important centerpiece of the restaurant, he crafted a new piece with completely innovative design.  The new vase would be perfect with invigorating spring flowers in the upcoming season; it is another piece of treasure added to our proud collection.
While most people used pre-chosen clay, Mr, Ishida travelled number of regions within UK and dug clay with his own hands, gave through research into finding perfect clay for the climbing kiln. His work was simply exceptional and exquisite.
As long as a character like Mr. Ishida is taking part in the project, we have much to look forward to in its future development.
人間国宝の伊勢崎淳先生を中心とした備前焼の作家とオックスフォード大学、Whichford Potteryが共同で大学の敷地内に日本の古窯と同じ穴窯を築き上げました。
Oxford Anagama Kiln Project”という名前で数ヶ月前から若手作家の石田和也君を中心とした日本のメンバーと地元スタッフとが共同で行われているものです。

前回“Presenting Japan”のイベントでも手伝ってくれ、素晴らしいパフォーマンスを披露してくれた石田君が穴窯に合った陶土を送ってくれました。今年の初めから私も本腰を入れてその土を使った作品作りをしたものの一部を初窯に入れてくれるとのことでしたのでOxfordまで、見学を兼ねて行ってきました。