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Five Questions to Chef Nobu

Chef Nobuyuki ‘Nobu’ Matsuhisa talks to Mint Indulge about his culinary experiments
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First Published: Fri, May 31 2013. 01 50 AM IST
Photograph: AFP
Photograph: AFP
Nobuyuki ‘Nobu’ Matsuhisa is one of the world’s finest chefs. His restaurant line that showcases a unique blend of Japanese and Peruvian ingredients and techniques is world renowned and hugely sought after. Recently, chef Nobu was in Dubai to hold an exclusive, ultra-gourmand dinner for a select group of friends, family and guests at the Nobu restaurant at the Atlantis at The Palm Hotel and Resort. Mint Indulge asked him a few questions via email.
1. You are a chef who has attained everything there is to attain in the world of fine cuisine. What keeps you motivated? What is your next challenge?
My family of chefs who I work with keep me motivated every day. I travel for 10 months of the year visiting the teams across my 26 restaurants that are located in five continents. The young chefs who are eager to learn are the next generation of chefs who will change the culinary world, and I thoroughly enjoy sharing my knowledge with them and watching them grow.
Most recently, we have launched the first Nobu Hotel under Nobu Hospitality. The hotel is located in Las Vegas at Ceasar’s Palace and we are looking forward to opening more properties across the world.
I believe that to be a chef, you have to have passion and patience but, most of all, you must love food. The special ingredient in my cooking is my kokoro, which means “heart” in Japanese. To be a successful chef, you need to put your kokoro into your cooking.
2. There also seems to be a new fondness for the simple and the home grown. Perhaps this is buoyed by a greater awareness of food origins and the dangers of mass retail. Do you feel that there is a return to simplicity?
My cooking is based on the practice of simplicity. I believe the art of using simple techniques in the kitchen brings out the best flavours in ingredients that allows me to create dishes combining Japanese and South American influences.
It is very important to me that my restaurants use locally sourced produce as much as possible in the countries where they are situated. At Nobu in Atlantis, The Palm, we have created a Japanese garden where we grow our own herbs and vegetables.
3. What is the last dish you imagined that you’re particularly proud of? And what is the best meal you’ve eaten this year so far? Where was it and why did you like it so much?
It still amazes me how popular the Black Cod with Miso dish is. In this dish, the black cod is paired with a miso sauce, which is a mix of miso paste, sake, mirin and sugar in which the fish is marinated for three days to enhance the flavour. It means a lot to me when people all around the world tell me it is their favourite.
My favourite chef is my wife. All of the dishes she cooks for me are my favourite—they’re simple and delicious.
4. Let us talk about your restaurant at the Atlantis. How do you approach such a restaurant? How do you work the location, the environment and the local clientele into your restaurant concept? Nobu Dubai has been operating since the launch of the Atlantis, The Palm, in 2008, and it’s always great to visit the restaurant...I try to do it at least twice a year.
It is the first of my restaurants to open in the Middle East and it reflects the style my restaurants are known for, including the open sushi bar and wood-burning oven. The most recent component to the restaurant is the Japanese garden, which is a spot for reflection and tranquillity. In the garden, we grow fresh herbs that are used for cooking in the restaurant.
Dubai has a competitive dining scene and it’s key to stand out and offer something different and that’s what I think we do there.
5. You have so much experience and seen so many geographies. Are you still moved by how your restaurants are experienced by clients? Do you find differences between how your restaurants are received in different places? Anything peculiar about the way your restaurant in the Atlantis serves clients?
The concept of Nobu across the world is the same; the cuisine is a fusion of Japanese and Peruvian flavours and you will taste this at every restaurant. However, each menu varies and offers a slightly different selection of dishes depending upon what can be locally sourced.
I also put trust into my chefs and give them the freedom to influence the menu. For example, in the Nobu at the Atlantis, The Palm, in Dubai, there are a number of dishes exclusive to the restaurant, including Langoustine shiso salad, beef tenderloin with dry miso, and scallop and foie gras with vanilla den miso.
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First Published: Fri, May 31 2013. 01 50 AM IST
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