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

Friday, 27 November 2015

Overdue update I kept forgetting….すっかりアップするのを忘れていた大切なお知らせ

Somehow sharing the news had completely slipped my mind, and now seems a little too overdue, nonetheless, Umu was awarded with 2nd star for Michelin Guide 2016.

No precedent existed for Japanese cuisine to attain 2-star status in Europe, where the judging criteria diverges from those in America and Japan. Achieving this prestige speaks of binary significances, ones I always bore in mind as targerts; a blast of an innovative wind through conservative European tradition and progression in peoples understanding towards Japanese cuisine and its concomitant culture in diverse environment. One day, one guest at a time, we worked hard believing, by always attending with sincerity, this moment would surely arrive. Yet a height of the hurdle exceeded expectation, and before I realised, 5 years have passed since I set my foot in London.
Re-educating staff, re-developing the route of food supply, enriching selection of appliance, and reviewing the state of our day-to-day service; tasks heaped during this course of time. Step by step, we marched our way forward, with the support from uncountable number of people. The first faces I pictured upon receiving the news were of fishermen who go out to the sea each day regardless to rough tide and perform Ikejime technique, as well as those of farmers who brought waste land into cultivation and deliver us organic vegetables. Subsequently upon receiving many congratulatory words I shared the rapture with the staff I spent day-to-day service with for those long 5 years.
Umu is finally standing at a new beginning. Continue to cherish and appreciate each and every day, we will take our new step. 

5年間の間にスタッフの再教育、食材ルートの再開拓、什器の充実、毎日の営業のあり方の再チェックなど課題は山済みでしたが、多くの人々に支えられ一歩ずつ進んできました。報告を受けたときに一番に頭に浮かんだのは荒れた海の上で魚を獲り、いけじめをしている漁師たちの顔、荒れた農地を開墾して有機野菜を育てている農家の顔でした。それに続いて多くの方々から祝福の言葉をいただき、5年間の間に日々の営業を共にしたスタッフ皆と共に喜びを分かち合いました。 これでやっとUMUも新たなスタート地点に立てました。一日一日を大切にしながら、これからも次の一歩へと進んでゆきます。

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Buddy 相棒

 I recall the time I was still a fellow at Kitcho Arashiyama, Kyoto, some twenty years ago, many seniors, juniors came and went every year. Out of nearly hundred colleagues I lived under the same roof over the course of a decade, the person I trusted the most, both professionally and privately, and devoted time out of kitchen together to pottery, tea ceremony and flower arrangement, was Masato Nishihara. 
We once went separate ways when I took up the position as a resident chef at Japanese Embassy in Geneva, yet entirely coincidentally, our paths crossed again in New York, although under different circumstances. While I relocated from Geneva to New York and began working at Morimoto, He himself moved to New York as an opening staff, an executive head chef for Kajitsu, the city’s very 1st Shojin cuisine restaurant.

During his three years contract with the restaurant, he and his wife Tomoko shined through their blessed and unique talents, unsparing endeavor, and amiable characters, pushing the restaurant’s popularity through the roof, achieving 1 Michelin star in the 1st year, and the 2nd in the following. Moreover, he was awarded as Rising Star chef as well as being chosen to be the 2nd Japanese chef in the history to give presentation at world’s finest culinary competition Madrid Fusion.
Three years ago, in my 2nd year as a current position at Umu, they joined me here in London as a head chef and a head waitress upon completion of their contracts.
I remembered back in New York, we dreamed of a day we’d work as a team again, nonetheless I initially encouraged them to pursue their own paths with their already well-celebrated names. The opportunities must have been piling up as their contract came to expire, and they literally could’ve chosen any way they please. Yet they still chose to join me, which was easily the most touching event in my life.

They took no time to blend in with new colleagues, and soon became reliable members of the team. Grew to be irreplaceable assets to Umu and brought great pleasure to many guests in day-to-day services. We even welcomed not so few fans from his time in New York.
Considering our respective positions, the amount of time we spent here wasn’t plentiful. However occasionally sharing a meal and taking a trip together to Wales and Portugal, working jointly to create successful events out of our usual kitchen were precious memories.

Now three years have passed, and they are taking their next step, returning to Japan. Their more than sufficient skills, moreover, the exceptional personalities will undoubtedly lead to profound success.
We gave away a farewell party on their final working day at Umu. Lavishing food, including a roasted whole pigling, and heartfelt speeches filled another memorable moment. Masato hopped on to a sofa at the end, and amused everyone with his eloquent yet equally baffling Independence Day speech (the date being the 4th of July) in his fluent English. I tipped my hat to his charm that can always own the show in any situation.

Just before the departure to Japan, we enjoyed a ‘family gathering” at their favourite restaurant Ledbury. Once again a remarkable night, thanks to Chef Brett’s special cooperation.
Masato and Tomoko, thank you for three years worth of inspirations and delights. We’ll surely see each other soon!







彼らが日本に帰る前に二人の大好きなレストラン、Ledbury で家族パーティーをしました。シェフのBrettの特別な協力もあってとても楽しい一夜でした。



Saturday, 11 July 2015

Vila Vita parc Fine Wines & Food Fair and Fishing with Portuguese fisherman ポルトガルAlgarve でのイベントと伝統漁師と、またまた活けジメ

A world’s leading resort Vila Vita Parc, a 5-star hotel in Algarve I’ve stopped by during my last trip to Portugal, hosted a unique gastronomic event that gathers internationally awarded chefs, “Fine Wines & Food Fair 2015”, for a second time.
I RSVP’d to the invitation jointly with Masato Nishihara, a head chef of Umu for 3 years, moreover an irreplaceable comrade of mine who I’d been cooking side by side since the apprentice era at Kitcho in our 20s. He usually stays back and be the backbone to Umu in my absence, thus this was a rare opportunity for a trip together.
During my visit in the last winter, I toured the port of Sagres guided by a local fishmonger Pedro, and discovered few local fish yet I must admit the disappointment for a hiatus in fishing season due to the Christmas holiday. This time around, I planned our trip with a day to spare, allowing us to create again a setting to learn from traditional thread fishermen. I recognise their interest towards Ikejime as a promising reliability. Most fish at Umu comes in from Cornwall, but Portuguese fish recently added to our selection, mainly warm current varietals, is showing remarkable stability in quality.
Arrived in the afternoon 2 days prior to the event, and immediately began prepping in the kitchen right after we checked-in. We were invited to a wine-pairing dinner in the evening, at hotel’s 2 michelin-starred restaurant, held as a part of the culinary event and hosted by a 3 starred guest chef, Gert De Mangeleer. All the plates, mainly vegetable oriented, simply had nothing to fault. 
The dinner commenced at 7.00pm, nonetheless, the clock was ticking to 11.00pm by we reached a dessert course. We rushed out without having a cup of coffee, to get ready in time to be picked up by Pedro at midnight. He was right on schedule and we arrived at Segres by 1.00am. Stuffed with all the courses and glasses of wine, I felt a little skeptical to go on board out to the sea. Yet I gulped down motion sickness pills, snuggled into a corner of a tiny interior and took a much-needed nap for 2 hours during a journey to the fishing point.
Having said that, the open sea that surrounds the port of Segres receives swelling waves, and I couldn’t pull myself together due to dizziness even when we arrived at the point. It was a long fight with seasick for me, while roughly 6,000 long-line hooks were being thrown in. Masato seemed to be completely knocked down, being nowhere to be found.
Red rockfish was hauled in from the dark deep sea, one by one as the lines were tagged. It was an unique scenery, and also a beautiful one; shining red body of the fish appearing from 600 meters below the sea level. Within the red bunch were a few black-silver objects, Stone bass. This highly priced fish within European markets is also one of my favourites, and this fishing trip served to create a possible breakthrough solution to have it shipped to London, pre-treated with Ikejime. Despite being in the condition that even hard to stand, perceptive crews mastered the technique in no time.
While being thrown back to the floor again during the return trip, an inviting aroma tickled my nose out of blue. Regardless to my almost non-existing appetite, Pedro brought a pot brimming over with a Portuguese style fishermen’s stew. A stocked that filled with the smell of the sea, and potatoes soaked up the sea essence, and more than anything, fresh seafood that still vividly stuck in my mind; I cleaned the pot with sickness totally out of the window, yet I was soon in an immobile state, again. 
Masato appeared from nowhere as we arrived at the port after being down for 16 hours. Being a beginner at the sea, the trip must have become a precious experience for him… right?  
In addition to the ship we went on board which targets relatively deep fishing points, Pedro had spoken to a crew of a boat that does thread fishing at rather shallow points and arranged to keep live sea bass and red sea bream. According to Pedro, young boatmen showed profound interests toward Ikejime, and were looking for an opportunity to see it first hand.  Whipped my body, still in agony even back on the land, and demonstrated Ikejime in the corner of the port. I am delighted every time I see many fishermen gathering and listening with such eagerness. They were staggered by a quick transformation in colour of the sea bream, from blight red to silver-ish hue. The technique is, in fact, a simple process if the logic behind is fathomed, and thanks to Pedro’s professional translation, I could work feeling extra-rewarding with their speedy comprehension.
Next day was finally the day of the event. This trip was entirely blessed with weather and the day did not see one cloud in the sky. My condition was back to perfect, and began preparing from early morning. Each and every staff of the hotel was collaborative and I was allowed to work in an open environment. Special thanks goes to Juliana, a mediator since the receipt of the invitation, whose ample generosity was apparent in her responses, liaised and met everyone’s need precisely and in timely manner, moreover with kindness. Her dependability, not only as a manager but also as a person, let me work freely.
Bonito supplied by Pedro, in quantity that sufficient for serving 300 guests, was more than adequate in its freshness. Smoking them with abundant charcoal and straw had a rustic bliss. To that rusticity, Masato added delicate spices and seasoning of Japanese cuisine, many guests kindly left us with compliments. Only unfortunate thing was a decoration Masato and I created, out of a fallen tree and straw we found on the way back from fishing trip, could not stand out under the dimmed light. All the same, I enjoyed the frenetic, battle-like chaos with an army of fellows.


I send my gratitude to the hotel for the invitation, the kind-hearted staff, and the associated chefs. Last but not least, I send my biggest thanks to Pedro who helped to discover fishermen with passion for Ikejime and spent one whole day with us between his hectic schedules, moreover served the delicious and bewitching fishermen’s pot.


昨年の冬に遊びに行ったポルトガルのAlgarveにある五つ星リーディングリゾートホテルVila Vita Park からの招待で ミシュランの星付きレストランのシェフが一同に集まる今年が二回目のイベント、 Fine Wines & Food Fair 2015”に行ってきました。
2日前の午後にチェックインし、すぐに厨房でイベントに使う食材の仕込みをしました。夜はホテル内にある2つ星のレストラン“Ocean restaurant”で今回のイベントの一環であるベルギーからの三ツ星招待シェフGert De Mangeleerによるワインペアリングディナーにも招待してもらいました。料理は野菜がメインで非の打ちどころのない素晴らしいものでした。
7時から始まったディナーもデザートを食べるころになると 11時を回ってしまい、Pedroが迎えに来る0時に間に合わなくなるのでコーヒーも飲まず、準備に行きました。時間通り0時にピックアップしてもらい、Sagresに着いたのは夜中の1時でした。フルコースで腹いっぱい、ワインも回ったままの乗船は非常に気が引けましたが、酔い止めの薬をいっぱいのみ、狭い船内でかろうじて仮眠をしました。漁場まではおよそ2時間の行程です。
はえ縄を回収していると沖カサゴが面白いように上がってきました。600メートルの深い海から上ってくる赤色の魚体はとてもきれいでした。その赤い魚の中に大きな黒銀色の魚、Stone Bass(イシナギ)が時々混じってきます。ヨーロッパでもとても高級な魚ですが私の大好きな魚の一つで、今回漁に同行した目的はこの魚を何とか活けジメにしてロンドンに送ってもらえないかということでした。立っているだけでも大変な状況でしたが船のクルー達は物わかりが早く、すぐにマスターしてくれました。