You’re the only Japanese chef to have held three Michelin stars in Tokyo and London. How did your career as a chef begin?
I didn’t have a clear life goal when I started out as a trainee in a sushi shop. I later moved to Sydney to work in a restaurant. Back then, I would head to the fish market every morning to pick out seafood.
I only knew making sushi was going to be a lifelong career after I saw how happy people were after they ate what I made. Upon returning to Japan, I started to learn how to make sushi properly from scratch.
Why open restaurants overseas?
After running my Tokyo sushi restaurant, The Araki, for 10 years in Setagaya, I wanted to take it to the next level. We relocated to Ginza in 2010, and opened our London outpost in 2013. I love the idea of travelling with basic tools, and opening a small sushi restaurant in places I love – like those small joints in Ginza that are run by just one person.
You emphasise the use of local ingredients in your dishes. Why is that?
I first visited Hong Kong in 2011 and was surprised by the quality of the seafood here. So for my Hong Kong restaurant, I’m sourcing the freshest produce locally, instead of relying only on imports from Japan. Cooking is about how chefs make use of the best ingredients available to them, and incorporating local seafood into my sushi is the best way to go.
What are the challenges of running a sushi restaurant outside of Japan?
I constantly think about how to best adapt Japanese dishes for different palates. It’s important for sushi chefs to not always present themselves as ‘the expert’. It’s all about understanding our diners, and making what’s delicious for them.
What do you eat when you travel?
Besides what’s good locally, I always visit Japanese restaurants in new cities to see how they adapt Japanese cuisine to their audience – it’s a useful reference for our international operations.
The Araki, Stable Block, House 1881, 2A Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui; +852 3988 0000