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Chef's Choice - Toni Robertson

Chef's Choice is a Unique and Inspiring Book that is a Perfect Gift for
Aspiring Culinary Students, Home Cooks, and Professional Chefs

"Chef's Choice is a beautiful book." - Marcus Samuelsson

Message from Saori Kawano, Founder and President of Korin Japanese Trading Corp

Welcome to 2019! After publishing Chef’s Choice: 22 Culinary Masters Tell How Japanese Food Culture Influenced Their Careers and Cuisine in 2015, it continues to inspire and educate new and experienced chefs, culinary students, and those who love Japanese food and culture.

In this savory collection of mini memoirs, 22 culinary masters tell who and what motivated them to become chefs. They described early career influences, training, favorite Japanese ingredients, tools, and the pivotal role Japanese food culture has played in their cuisine and professional development.

Participating chefs include Nobu Matsuhisa, David Bouley, Eric Ripert, Marcus Samuelsson, Michael Romano, Lee Anne Wong, Michael Anthony, Wylie Dufresne, Toshio Suzuki, Ben Pollinger, Toni Robertson, Eddy Leroux, Nils Norén, Yosuke Suga, Shinichiro Takagi, Suvir Saran, David Myers, Noriyuki Sugie, Elizabeth Andoh, Barry Wine, James Wierzelewski, and Ben Flatt.

Our goal in writing the book was to inspire, educate, and movitate student chefs, working chefs, home chefs, and everyone who admires Japanese food and culture. We wanted to go deep and learn from top chefs what it takes to succeed in today’s hyper-competitive restaurant world and the role that Japanese food culture played in their cooking and careers. We believe that the stories in Chef’s Choice can be a valuable resource for anyone pursuing a career in the restaurant business and those fascinated by Japanese food culture and cuisine.

We hope you enjoy it!

Chef's Choice Regular price $19.95 | Korin Price: $15 Click Here


Food was always my passion.

My fondest memories from Burma, where I was born, are walking to the local market with my grandmother every morning to buy the ingredients for the day’s meals. Even as a little girl, I was enthralled with the hustle and bustle and the sounds and smells of this gathering place as we went about our daily ritual. It was there that I first learned how to appreciate food and how to select the best ingredients. It was in the market that I think my passion was born. By Burmese standards, we were well off. We were of Chinese descent, and my father was a successful businessman who wanted all of his kids to be educated professionals—preferably doctors. But school was never my strong point, so I always seemed to find my way into the kitchen, usually to hide out.

Our family cook would put me to work. “If you’re going to hide in here, peel some garlic. Chop some of this. Stir this pot.” She gave me simple tasks to do, and I started to learn about cooking from the ground up. But in Asia, being a cook was not like it was in America or Europe. It was not a particularly desirable position and usually meant that you would work as a servant for others, so the idea of being a chef never really entered my mind. There were no famous chefs in Burma to idolize. But I knew that I loved food and cooking.

In 1979 as a teenager, I immigrated to the United States amidst the political turmoil in my country. My parents were still in Burma, so I first stayed with my oldest sister Peggy, a doctor, in Hawaii, where I learned English by watching soap operas on TV. We moved to Chicago a year later, where I was able to complete my high school education. Peggy had a great passion for cooking, and I think if she had not gone into medicine, she would have been a great chef. She and her husband, Patrick, also a doctor, took vacations around the world to faraway places like Paris, where they would eat and drink at the great restaurants. Peggy even went to cooking classes. I learned my first real dishes from my sister. I think the first thing I ever baked on my own was rum baba. I was underage and already into the rum! Then I made a soufflé. Imagine making a soufflé and being so excited when it actually turned out perfect! I was addicted.

Although food was my passion, cooking as a profession was still not a realistic option for me at that time. I had another stop to make along the way. After graduating from high school, I joined the U.S. Air Force and became an emergency room medic. With a family full of doctors, it wasn’t such a stretch for me to gravitate toward medicine. I loved the Air Force because it opened up so many opportunities for me. In fact, I served seven years on active duty and another five years in the Air National Guard. I often say that the experience I gained in running an emergency room, working in that “controlled chaos,” was perfect training for preparing me to work in the kitchen. I was fortunate enough to be stationed early in my career in a little town in Germany called Spangdahlem in the Eifel mountains, where the borders of Belgium, France, and Luxembourg come together.

Every weekend that I could get away, my mission was to find somewhere new to eat. It was normal on a Friday for my friends and me to hop on the train and head down to Paris. We didn’t have a lot of money, so we would go to a little bistro or a sidewalk cafe, watch the world go by, and share items on the menu. I thought I was eating in the dining room at the Ritz! Instead, I was Hemingway sat in, sipping espresso, and eating baguettes and cheese. That was my introduction to the culinary world.

Living in Europe also gave me the opportunity to try cooking the foods that I ate on my dining excursions. We always had single friends over to the house for dinners when I experimented with new dishes, and on holidays I cooked feasts and invited service people who didn’t have family close by. I had the best Christmas parties at my house! I learned recipes from cookbooks or magazines like Gourmet, Food & Wine or Good Housekeeping. I also worked the overnight shift at the U.S. Air Force Emergency Room, and we used to do potluck dinners with themes. I always made a main dish. For example, if it was Mexican night, I would make the meat dish, and everyone else brought taco shells, lettuce, or tomatoes. If you came to our emergency room at 2 a.m., patients, nurses, doctors, the ambulance drivers, even the security and local police were there eating those potluck dinners. It was a big buffet for all of us, and it was fun.

(Click here for a free PDF download of TONI ROBERTSON’s complete mini memoir.)