Each year The Gohan Society’s US-Japan Culinary Exchange Chefs Scholarship Program, we send chefs from the US to our host restaurants in Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan, for an intensive, weeklong training session. The chefs learn about Japanese ingredients, knife skills, and cooking techniques that they can apply to their professional and personal lives. We also invite Japanese chefs to train at high-end restaurants here in New York.
This February, three chefs from Ishikawa – Hirofumi Ishida of Tsubajin, Tomohito Koda of Zeniya, and Masahiko Sakano of Asadaya – spent one week training at the fast-paced environments of Bouley, Gramercy Tavern, and Le Bernardin, respectively. The young chefs were accompanied by Hyoe Tsuchiya of Kinjohro, a traditional Japanese inn featuring a 118-year-old high-class ryotei restaurant; Shinichiro Takagi, owner/chef of Zeniya, a high-end restaurant; and Qta Asada of Asadaya, a luxury ryokan with a 140-year history. These gentlemen host and train our scholarship recipients.
Chef Tomohito Koda, who trained at Gramercy Tavern, was impressed by Chef Michael Anthony’s incorporation of Japanese ingredients into the menu. “Gramercy is an American-style restaurant, but it’s mixed,” says Chef Koda. “You can find hamachi and goma in their dishes, and that’s nice.”
A musician when he was younger, Chef Koda once opened a restaurant that failed, but he decided to try his hand in the industry again as a chef at Zeniya, where he’s been for three years. “We serve the traditional style of Japanese cuisine [at Zeniya], and we have to follow that; it’s important to protect,” says Chef Koda. “But it was nice to see a restaurant like Gramercy blend cultures to create new dishes.”
The participating chefs were able to meet former scholarship recipients Chef Chris Muller, Chef Sara Woodward, and Chef Dan Drexler. They also helped prepare the menu items at Korin’s 35th Anniversary party at Degustibus Cooking School on February 16. (Korin’s founder, Saori Kawano, is also the founder of The Gohan Society.)
At The Gohan Society, we value the cross-cultural networking that is the result of our scholarship program. To see more photos from the chefs’ stay in New York, please visit our Gallery.