In addition to sending chefs to Japan through The Gohan Society’s U.S.-Japan Culinary Chefs Scholarship Exchange Program, we also invite Japanese chefs to participate in an exchange with top-level restaurants in New York. Four chefs from Ishikawa Prefecture visited New York in early February and took part in four-day “internships” at Jean-Georges, Oceana, and Bouley.
Takuya Nomura is a sous chef at Tsubajin, a ryotei established in 1752 that serves kaiseki cuisine. Chef Nomura spent his time at Jean-Georges, where he studied the combination of Japanese and French cuisine. Comparing his experience to that of a French restaurant in New York, Chef Nomura says that the preparation of dishes is totally different at Jean-Georges. “In Japan, preparation and cooking are done in the same place, but there are two separate spaces here.”
He encountered new vegetables that he doesn’t see in Japan and learned that there are a lot of thick sauces associated with French cuisine. The restaurant’s use of Japanese ingredients such as uni and yuzu was a pleasant surprise for Chef Nomura, and he delighted in what he referred to as “the French version of sushi.” What struck him the most was the appearance of the kitchen facility. “The restaurant is always clean,” Chef Nomura says, “It gives me a good feeling.”
Tai Kiyomasa (middle) of kaiseki restaurant Takitei participated in the exchange program last year and was happy to return to New York, where he worked along side Joseph Rosa at Oceana. Chef Kiyomasa cut vegetables and prepped for Oceana’s busy dinner crowd. During his training, Chef Kiyomasa says he was always looking around the restaurant to observe the process of the kitchen. “We don’t have all of these machines in Japan,” says Chef Kiyomasa, saying that most prep work at Takitei is done by hand. He says that he will employ some of the new techniques he learned in New York into his everyday practice.
Bouley hosted two chefs from Ishikawa, Yusuke Yamamoto of Kanazawa Sekitei and Shoji Fune from Zeniya. This was the first visit to New York for both chefs, and they enjoyed immersing themselves in Bouley’s kitchen, where they were happy to see so many Japanese ingredients in use. Chef Yamamoto was surprised that chawan mushi is on the menu at Bouley, and he cites that dish as well as the desserts to be his favorites. Chef Fune also loves Bouley’s desserts, and his favorite dish is the beautifully plated uni in its shell.
Through the generosity of our supporters, The Gohan Society is pleased to provide the opportunity for chefs to participate in this enriching exchange program!