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, Inc.
Welcome to 2020! It's been 5 years since we published Chef's Choice: 22 Culinary Masters Tell How Japanese Food Culture Influenced Their Careers and Cuisine and 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!
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David Bouley's Cuisine
We make a dish that is a “handshake” between a French chef and a Japanese chef.
It’s only now that chefs are starting to understand how to incorporate Japanese techniques and ingredients from Japan into their cuisine without losing their identity. In 2008, I opened the new Bouley. The menu is modern French with Asian influences. This is an example of how we combine two cultures and create a new one. We do a flan here with crabmeat. This dish is a “handshake” between a French chef and a Japanese chef. We have the porcini––wild edible brown mushrooms––and flan. The flan is similar to chawanmushi, which is a Japanese egg custard that dates back to the fifteenth century. We purée the porcini and add crabmeat and dashi, but not just dashi. We put a lot of flavors and spices into the broth of the dashi, French style. Then I stick it with kuzu. And, of course, we finish it with black truffles.
For authentic Japanese cooking we need artisanal ingredients, produced by artisans, in the hands of artisanal chefs.
In 2001, Mr. Tsuji and I decided to collaborate on Brushstroke, a Japanese restaurant in New York City devoted to kaiseki. Why didn’t kaiseki chefs leave Japan to cook in other places? It’s because they didn’t have artisanal ingredients. That’s why Mr. Tsuji and I put a lot of preparation into finding artisanal ingredients for Brushstroke. We met in Kyoto and went to the auction market for special Kyoto vegetables. We spent one entire week with experts from the Department of Agriculture learning about Kyoto vegetables. They taught us all about the evolution of the vegetables there, the soil, and everything else. To have artisanal Japanese ingredients for Brushstroke, we brought seeds from Kyoto so we could grow Osaka and Kyoto eggplants, five kinds of Japanese root vegetables, and other artisanal products on my small farm and on Rick Bishop’s farm in upstate New York.
Mr. Tsuji and I also hired a research team of five agricultural experts led by a famous Japanese professor to travel from British Colombia, Canada to San Diego, California looking for a year-round source of Japanese vegetables. The team spent an entire year visiting the many Asian markets and farms up and down the West Coast, researching and tasting vegetables. So in 2011, after nearly 10 years of research and planning, we opened Brushstroke in New York City with Chef Isao Yamada as the kaiseki master. We wanted Brushstroke to be about Japan’s culinary traditions, its integrity, focus, pride, and its artisanal ingredients.
Trust your senses and they will not lie to you.
When my grandmother baked, she could be in the backyard but would know exactly when to go into the kitchen to take the apple pie out of the oven––and it was always perfect. That’s because she smelled the sweetness; she smelled the crust; she smelled the caramel. For her it wasn’t a calculation. She had no alarm, no timer. She used her senses. But in professional cooking we’re five, 10, 20 steps ahead. The intellectual side of our brain takes time to organize 10 steps so that we can bring the food out. If we have to think each time about one thing, we’re never going to get anything out. But our hands are moved by our senses.
Every so often I’ll teach a cooking class. One class was with a Spanish chef, and the dish was paella. After I finished talking, I asked everyone in the class to come up to the stove and listen to the paella cooking over an open flame. I took my microphone so everyone could hear the crackling. It was getting crispy. If there was too much humidity at that time, the bubbles would have sounded different. If the heat was too high, it would burn, and we would hear that, too. So cooking by our senses tells our hands what to do. Our motivation is through our senses. This is something that we don’t want to take for granted when we go into the kitchen. But most chefs don’t say, “Well, today I’m going to really pay attention to my senses.” If they did, they’d be better cooks.
When you cook a dish that you’re worried about, I suggest that you rely more on your senses. If you’ve prepared it before, your senses will remember what was right and what was wrong, and this will be the guidance that you need. Your senses can tell you everything you need to know. Stop thinking, because that’s going to distract you. Allow the senses to recall what they are supposed to do. Even if you have never made this dish before, you probably have used certain ingredients before. For example, onions. What do they smell like when they are cooking and getting sweet? Remember that. What do they smell like when they are still full of water? They smell bitter; they smell acidy. Trust your senses, and they will not lie to you.