********** 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 ------------

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Autumn in Cornwall 初秋のCornwallへ

There are not many feelings like driving through the countryside of Cornwall already full of ambience in autumn. Accompanied by beautiful weather, it was so invigorating that I could feel all my stress lifted off my shoulder. Moreover, I felt refreshed being welcomed by lovely smiles of Dylan and Mutsuko, even though it was already past sunset when I arrived at their home. They took me to a gastro pub nearby, which was situated in a small seaside village surrounded by narrow roads where cars can barely pass each other. I was astonished by its prosperity despite its location and also their sophisticated and high quality foods were divine surprise. I was deeply intrigued by the conversation we had about recent fishing situation and Celtic ethnicity over the dinner.  

Woke up at 4am next morning and went fishing on a boat belong to Mr Anthony Hosking, a Dylan’s cousin, carrying with me Mutsuko’s handmade rice balls with home-made pickled plum filling. The catch was rather disappointing than what we had hoped for, due difficulty caused by gill nets being tangled with algae. Nonetheless, I was delighted to see fish caught in the 3 types of nets, very rich in variety. On the way back, I asked Anthony for his impression on the outcome of the particular catch in comparison to those on usual days, and he summed up to one word: “Rubbish!” Considering the hours and energy he puts in and also the expense of fuel, it was simply not good enough for him. 

After we got back on the land, I watched other ships being unloaded at Dylan’s house before made my way to a hotel. I was a little reluctant to leave, been having such delightful time. Next morning, I headed to St. Ives to collect the ceramics from Leach pottery, which Midori had had them kiln-baked before she went back to Japan for her own exhibition. Mr & Mrs Akira Yagi, a ceramist from Kyoto, were coincidently visiting as well, and I was unexpectedly given the opportunity to hear recent news of fellow chefs back in Kyoto. The finished ceramics made me reflect on not having to spend more time to perfect them, which made my tasks and targets in the future clearer.

Dylan and Mutsuko who arranged accommodation and introduced me to fishermen, Anthony and his crew Darren who kindly and patiently took very inexperienced person like me on the boat with them, Ms Midori who accepted my unreasonable request and actually completing them in limited time, and also a grandpa who entertained me at motorway service area with folktale of Celtic nations: this trip like any other, I cannot end without thanking all the people who helped making it very special.




翌朝は4時起きでDylanのいとこ、Anthonyさんのボート、“Lucy Marianna”でMutsukoさんの心のこもった自家製梅干し入りのおむすびを携え、漁に出かけました。大潮後で藻が刺し網に絡みつき、思うような漁には恵まれなかったものの、多種多様な魚が3種類の網にかかってきて私は大興奮でした。帰りにAnthony に“今日の漁はいつもと比べると?”ときくと“Rubbish!“のひとこと。丸一日の労働と高価な燃料代などを考えると貧果であったようです。




Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Organic Vegetable farmer Namayasai

As autumn is deepening rapidly, I received a call informing me that soon it’ll be time for a break between cultivation of vegetables due to frosting on a field over the winter. Therefore I decided to go visit Robin and Ikuko’s Namayasai LLP, a fully organic farm in Lewis, with some of Umu’s kitchen staff between the hectic schedules. 
Even though distance wise its location is not far from London, considering the lack of motorway, the trip summed up to 2 and a half hour drive. Every one, while letting me - the executive chef - drive all the way, had a peaceful nap in the car… 
This was my second visit to the farm, but comparing to 2 years ago, the variety of vegetables has become richer, and moreover the consistency in keeping the completely organic environment in which the vegetables are cultivated was truly admirable. 
It’ll be shame not to be able to receive their vegetables as we enter the winter, however that’s the real accordance to nature, and that’s why we are given the opportunity to enthusiastically long for the harvest time that will be brought together with blooming in spring. 

秋も深まる中、そろそろ畑にも霜が下りて野菜がなくなるという知らせを受けてぜひその前にと、いつもきれいな野菜を配達してくださるLewisにある完全無農薬栽培の農家、RobinさんとIkukoさんのNamaYasai LLPに忙しい合間を縫って調理場のスタッフ達と行って来ました。



Sunday, 4 November 2012

Frieze Masters

Frieze Masters
Frieze Art Fair, the globally well-known event among the world of modern art, was held at Regent’s Park from 9th to 14th of October. Umu had a temporary pop-up branch at Frieze Masters, the site of comparatively exclusive exhibition secluded from the main event.
I must admit, since we received the request in opening pop-up few months ago, I’ve felt a tad of agitation from having to cater for such renowned event, also considering our rather small-sized team and this event being first huge opportunity since the Davos meeting last year. However, in spite of my concerns, we accomplished great success in credit to every member of my team who started the preparation a month back and those who came to help at the event from our sister restaurants of MARC.

During this exhausting week, some staff voluntarily helped at the main restaurant after working non-stop from dawn to evening at the site of event, or some selflessly gave up their day off to come join us at the event to support. The energetic faces of dedicated staff despite their hard schedule were very memorable and impressive.
To all the staff who worked hard and well in unfamiliar environment, to those who maintained the standard of Umu at the main restaurant even with shortage of hands, I would like to say massive thank you to all the people were involved in achieving this huge success.

10月9日から14日にかけて、リージェントパークでFrieze art fairが開催されました。近代アートの世界では世界的に有名になったFriezeのフェアーですが、その中でもよりハイクラスな出展がされる別会場、Frieze MasterUMUはポップアップレストランとして出店しました。


Wednesday, 31 October 2012

White Truffle ホワイトトリュフ

The time of the year for white truffle to be at its peak and enjoyable to its full potential is here again.
A few of the culinary delights have arrived from a pedlar in Alba, Italy, and it only takes a couple to fill the restaurant with rich, unique aroma.
Served with Scottish lobster, Mediterranean fatty tuna or Australian wagyu beef, the combinations may be considered slightly conventional but the feedbacks from guests could not be better so far.
This heavenly season of white truffle comes and goes in a blink but let’s not forget the arrival of black truffle that follows. 


Saturday, 20 October 2012

From Bizen,備前から

The tableware I ordered last year has arrived from Mr So Isezaki, a ceramic artist based in Bizen.
Bizen-ware (Bizen yaki) is one of my most favourite types of traditional Japanese pottery – or it may be THE most favourite – and a monthly visit to the city of its origin used to be my routine while I was living in Kyoto. Out of the ambition to create my own, I began searching for a ceramist who would open-mindedly help me with kilning, and after 3 years of exhausting search, I finally came across with an artist I could feel connected to: It was late Mr Mitsuru Isezaki.

 The instant bonding began when I knocked on the door of a straw-thatched atelier of his by a strem after sympathizing with his desperate desire to preserve the nature around the stream, which was expressed on a handmade sign outside his workshop. Through my frequent visits, we became more understanding of each other, and also by sharing numbers of same interests and hobbies with his son, Mr So, the visit soon became my habitude.
Last year, I gave him a call after a long silence, hoping to ask him a favour to participate in creating new tableware for Umu, and it was only then that I learned he had passed away. I cannot begin to explain how much I regret for not getting in touch with him sooner. I still recall his smile when he stopped his hands from work to have a chat with me.
As for the tableware I requested, Mr So kindly offered to create them himself. The series of ceramics mainly comprises rectangular shaped plates for my taste (called Ita-zara/Manaita-zara in Japanese), and they have been finished kiln-baked in small batches since I ordered last year. When I received the ceramics, I was overwhelmed with its astonishing finish and the sentimentality I felt for Bizen. I already enjoy using them for our main dishes and I find joy in decorating them into a presentation of authentic Japanese culinary. 

Recently, Mr Ishida, a ceramic artist who also based in Bizen and I have been introduced by Mr So, came all the way to my flat to lecture me how to handle Rokuro (a pottery wheel). After many hours of training, I gained the knowledge which cannot be grasped by self-learning, and moreover I was enchanted by peeping into the insight of the wider field of ceramic art.