********** 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 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。