********** Yoshinori Ishii Executive chef of Japanese restaurant UMU in London ******************
------------------ 英国の日本料理店 UMU 総料理長 石井義典 のつれづれなる話 ------------

2014年9月14日日曜日

Japanese Chef Elevates Washoku Worldwide



Japanese web magazine, Global manager feature an interview with me. My friend translate in English.

ウェイブマガジン、グローバルマネージャーにインタビュー記事が掲載されました。

Global manager
http://webmagazine-globalmanager.com/feature/07/18.html


Japanese Chef Elevates Washoku Worldwide 
 

 
A multi-talented chef in UK
spreads the spirit of Kaiseki and lifts Japanese cuisine to another dimension.

Yoshinori Ishii is the charismatic executive chef of UMU restaurant in London.
One wonders how he might convey Japanese cuisine to locals who have had no previous knowledge of the subject.  Yoshinori, who learnt Kaiseki culture in Kyoto and later worked overseas in Switzerland, the US, and England, explains the concept of this work, and his passion for Japanese cuisine. 

Profile of Yoshinori Ishii:

Executive chef at UMU, London
After graduating from the Abeno Cooking School in Osaka in 1990, he worked for the headquarters of Kyoto Kitcho, Arashiyama till he reached the position of sous-chef in 1998. While he studied English, he was engaged as a gardener at Seiho Takeuchi Museum and also started a catering service. In 1999 Yoshi was appointed as the embassy chef for the Japanese ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva. In 2002 he moved to New York on the same mission. In 2005, at the same time as the ambassador returned to Japan, he heard that his former horticulture mentor, Mr Masataka Higuchi, had been injured, and Yoshi decided to go back to Kyoto to support his farm.  In 2006 he returned to the US to oversee the special course menu at Morimoto restaurant.  He has received many awards including the Rising Star Chef.  In 2010, Yoshi moved to London as Executive chef at UMU restaurant.
 
Being a chef has made my dream come true 

The Japanese restaurant UMU is in the heart of London in Mayfair. Yoshinori Ishii works as the Executive Chef of the restaurant. 
He aimed to become a chef when he was a high school student and at that time dreamt of working abroad. After graduating from cooking school in Japan, he started his career at a long-established restaurant “Kyoto Kitcho” Arashiyama headquarters. There he was promoted to sous-chef, working there for ten years. He got a job as a chef at the Japanese ambassador’s residence and worked in Geneva and New York. He has held his current position at UMU since 2010.  
“I loved creating things myself through painting and sculpture when I was a student. My love of cooking came from the idea that I wanted to prepare fish with my own hands. At the same time, I had a dream of living abroad through using my own specific skills. When I graduated from school, I chose to work as a chef to enable me to follow my dream.” 
He made his dream come true by working as a chef at the ambassador’s residence and he enjoyed working overseas at last. However, looking back over those six years, he thinks that he was supported yet confined in his position, and something was missing. His real challenge started from that point. He wanted to make use of his experience. When he was trying to get a visa in the USA, Masaharu Morimoto, known as an Iron Chef, made him an offer. At chef Morimoto’s restaurant in New York, he was put in charge of the special course meals. Gradually he began to distinguish himself and was awarded Rising Star Chef and other accolades.
Three years later, he gained his US resident visa and he was looking for investors for his own project in order to move his career to the next stage, when he got the offer to become head chef of UMU restaurant in London, through his friend from Switzerland.
 
The art of handling fish passed onto the Celtic fishermen

After living there for seven years he left New York, and moved to a new world with lots of expectation. However, he was surprised by the difference between London and New York. The prime focus of dishes at UMU restaurant is Kaiseki. However, fresh fish, which is the most important element, could not be easily sourced.
At pop up restaurant at Frieze Master art show
“In New York, fish is sent by air cargo three times a week from the Tsukiji fish market in Japan. In addition they have local fish in New York, so I could work in a similar environment. However, London was completely different. They receive fish which wouldn’t be eaten even in staff meals in New York. I tried all kinds of middle suppliers, and I actually visited ports, but I couldn’t get fish with which I was happy. In fact, in England they don’t usually bring ice to fishing boats. In short, fish is taken from the boat as it is, and ice is added at the port. The fish is stored in the fridge, and brought to the fish market when the price has risen. The old stock goes first and fresher fish later. All middle suppliers work in the same way, so by the time we received the fish it was far from fresh.” 
Yoshinori looked for fishermen who customarily bring ice to the fishing boats. And finally he came to hear that there were Cornishmen of Celtic descent at the tip of the Cornish peninsula who treat fish carefully. Whenever he had time off, he drove for eight hours to build a relationship with them. 

“Although they treated fish very carefully, they have no knowledge of Japanese cuisine. They don’t have a transport system like we have in Japan, either. However, we can make an effort to bring the logistics closer to that of Japan.”

These problems decided him to teach Ikejime, the traditional Japanese method of fish preparation, and even showed the higher technique called Shinkei Jime. Yoshi was finally able to request that they perform Ikejime. He wanted to show them that all fish are treated with such care in Japan. Currently, Yoshi gets a call from the ship about the fish caught that day, and he chooses and orders the fish for the menu for the following day. The consistent communication between Yoshi and the fishermen made this possible. ‘Give 20, and get 10 returned’ is the philosophy Yoshi acquired living overseas.
 
“Personally, I do not talk a lot but, here, I learnt that verbal communication is key to everything.   Japan, we do not need to express ourselves that much, as people can read your mind and often silence is regarded as a virtue. Overseas, nothing can be understood unless expressed in words: to the staff, to the customers, and to the world.”


With head chef Masato Nishihara who was executive chef at Shojin cuisine restaurant NY. We worked together in Kitcho Kyoto long time. We pursue best created Kaiseki restaurant outside of Japan together.
 


 

 

2014年8月8日金曜日

Real Japanese Wagyu Arrive! 日本産和牛輸入解禁!


Until now, an importation of foreign meat was nonexistent, due to strict regulations casted upon based on EU standards, including on Japanese ingredients. However, an importation of Japanese wagyu beef was just made available, and since the preparation period, as one of the Japanese culinary expart based in the Britain, had myself involved in the project upon requests from several organisations. Consequently, the Japanese wagyu beef finally came on to our menu at UMU, and the feedbacks have been more than satisfactory so far.

A short while back, a press release event was held at the residence of Japanese Ambassador, also served as an introductory party to domestic culinary professionals. Chefs from the MARC company had teamed up with the resident chef to prepare a menu to match the remarkable occasion. Presitigious steak cooked just right by the resident chef, carpaccio by the company's French restaurant "Greeenhouse" team, a roast beef by chefs from the members' club Morton's and beef tataki prepared by the UMU team including myself; the event concluded with great outcomes.

 
The obstacless that have to be cleared in order to create stable demands for the Japanese wagyu are still piling up; red meat serving as the mainstream within Europe culture, marking distinction from foreign branded beefs, unstable thus unreliable exportation from the producers’ side, and competitions between production districts, to name a few. Nonetheless, the ultimate hurdle that matters to me the most, to create a rejoicing experience for guests, has surely been cleared already.










 
 



いままで英国に日本から届く食材は厳しいEU規格により制限されており、精肉は一切ありませんでしたが、いよいよ日本国産の和牛が入荷するようになりました。その準備段階から幾つもの団体から依頼され、現地で日本料理をするものとして携わってきましたが、ようやくUMUでも常にメニューに載せられるようになり、ご好評を得ています. 
先日、現地のプレスリリースと飲食関係者への紹介を兼ねて大使公邸でイベントがあり、当社の複数のレストランが大使公邸の料理人さんと共同で和牛料理を作ってきました。公邸料理人さんによるステーキ、フレンチレストラン“Green house”によるカルパッチョ、会員制クラブ“Morton”によるローストビーフ、当店UMUによるタタキなど、大盛況のうちに終わりました。

ヨーロッパの赤身肉主流文化、他国のブランド牛との差別化、日本の生産者による不定期的な出荷、産地同士の競合など安定的に需要を生み出すためには乗り越えなければならないハードルはまだまだたくさんあると思いますが、私にとっては最も大切である“お客様に喜んでいただく”というハードルはすでにクリヤーしていることだけは間違いありません。

2014年2月19日水曜日

First hanting in Cornwall 初めての狩猟


Game is often featured in the menu at the restaurant during the months between Autumn and Winter, the ingredient I adore and caught using Western tradition. Most come from huntsmen in Cornwall, however depending on the type of game, come occasionally from Northern Britain or European countries nearby.
Grasping the last chance before British’s bird hunting season closes at the end of January, Geoff, one of the supervising personnel over fishermen and huntsmen of Cornwall, generously took me along to hunting. Between his busy days as a president of family-owned company mainly dealing fish and game, also a reliable supplier of Umu, Geoff travels, sometimes miles and miles, to enjoy hunting every Monday.
Left his St. Ives home in the morning and headed to hunting spot nearby Dartmoor National Park, where we were joined by his hunting crew.  I, being totally unaware of manner or method of hunting, was surprised by the size of the pack and number of hunting dogs that they brought along.
After a short briefing, we split into groups of beaters and shooters, and beaters would hustle game out of woods located between meadows, moving into the woods from each boarder. Shooters would wait patiently for an alarmed bird to fly out with a shotgun in their hands, and at a moment of opportunity, aim and shoot.
It was after we had passed through several woods, Geoff offered me to join the shooters. In spite of my love for fishing and number of experience catching various fish, I had never killed game with my own hands before and I, quite naturally, felt uneasy stepping into new field. Nonetheless, new experience is always a blessing and I decided to take up the challenge.
I fired a shot into the air, my very first shot, to try and learn the correct posture as well as how to handle a gun. A female pheasant flew up towards my direction being chased by the hunting dog, instantly I aimed (at least I tried) then I fired my second shot.  Without a hassle, the pheasant continued to fly away, with the dog also still running after the bird. Geoff said the shot I fired had grazed its back, to which I laughed assuming he joked out of kindness not to disappoint me, but next moment the hunting dog came back with a pheasant in its mouth. As I had never imagined I could make a hit on my first trial, I was both shocked and overwhelmed.
Along the while, Geoff educated me on the method of traditional British hunting, the state of Royal family-owned forests, and a system that can preserve the nature and the hunting culture to coexist with it. He, by including humors here and there, simplified his words for me to understand better.

In the end, we caught several pheasants, pigeons, woodcocks/beccases and snipes. The catch was unexpected success despite our assumption based on the closing of season and the unpleasant weather.

After returning to St. Ives, I was invited to join a birthday party hosted by Naomi, Geoff’s daughter who also sends us fish on daily basis to Umu, for her husband at her home. Geoff looked blessed surrounded by members of heartwarming family and relatives enjoying Naomi’s delicious homemade food, and I had such blessed experience. 

秋から冬にかけて、欧州の伝統でもあり、私自身も大好きな食材として狩猟による鳥獣をUMUではよく料理します。多くはCornwallの猟師から届きますが、その種類によっては英国北部、或いは他のヨーロッパ諸国から入手します。  


英国の鳥類の狩猟シーズンが今月一杯で終わるため、最後のチャンスでCornwallの漁業、狩猟のリーダーの一人であるGeoffに狩猟に連れて行ってもらいました。彼は現在は主に魚と狩猟肉を扱う家族経営の会社の社長として、UMUにも素晴らしい食材を提供してくれている傍ら、毎週月曜日、時には遠方まで足を伸ばして狩猟を楽しんでいます。

朝、St.Ives の彼の自宅から出発Dartmoor National parkのそばの狩猟場所に到着し、彼の狩猟仲間と合流しました。猟の仕方など何も聞いていなかったので人数の多さと連れてきている猟犬の数に驚きました。

簡単な打ち合わせの後、追い立て方(beater)と撃ち方(shooter)に別れ、牧草地の中になる小さな林を端から順に人と犬とが追い立てます。驚いた鳥が林から飛び出すのを待ち構えた撃ち方が散弾銃で撃つという方法でした。

幾つかの林を廻るうちに、Geoffから撃ち方をやらないかと誘われました。釣り好きで多くの魚をとってきた私ですが、鳥獣を自ら殺したことは経験がなく、ちょっぴり気が引けましたが、経験も必要かとチャレンジしました。一発目、試しに空に向かって撃ち、姿勢と銃の扱い方を教わりました。そして二発目、犬が追い立てたメスのキジが私のほうに飛んできたとき、狙いを定めて(定めたつもりで)撃ちました。キジはそのまま飛び去ってゆきましたが、Geoffの犬がその後を追ってゆきました。Geoffは“お前の撃った弾がキジの背中をかすめた。”と言います。私を喜ばせるためになんてすてきなジョークだろうと笑っていると、犬がキジを咥えて帰ってきました。初めての経験でまさか当たるとは思っていなかったので本当に驚くと共に感激しました。

Geoffからは英国の伝統的な狩猟のやり方、王室の所有する森のありかた、狩猟を続けながら同時に自然を守り続けるシステムなどの話を聞きました。彼はユーモアを混ぜながら私の英語力でも理解できるようにとても分かりやすく説明してくれました。

最終的には多くのキジ(pheasant)、山鳩(pigeon)、ヤマシギ(Woodcock, Beccase)、シギ(Snipe)が獲れました。シーズン最後で天気も非常に悪かったので皆あまり期待していなかった割には大収穫でした。

St.Ivesに帰ってから、Geoffの娘さんであり、いつもUMUに魚を送ってくれるNaomiの家で、彼女の旦那さんのバースデーパーティーに呼ばれました。彼女の手料理と、多くのやさしくてあったかい家族に囲まれたGeoffはとても幸せそうでしたし、私自身もとても楽しい思い出になりました。

 

2014年2月2日日曜日

Fish Fish Fish! 北大西洋の魚たち


Almost 2 years have passed since I began dealing personally and directly with domestic fishermen, and over the course, we have built a great relationship to an extent that, time to time, they would send me rare fish that are accidently caught to give me enchanting surprises.













Finding a joy in encountering new delicious fish, having a laugh at funny looking ones, and being amazed by the fish’s completely unfamiliar taste despite its similarity in looks to those found in the Pacific Ocean near Japan; these occasional gifts brings amusements and excitements to me and the team between our hectic days at work. Moreover, I feel most delighted that our discoveries of new fish and its characters enable us to bring better experience to guests.

On the other hand, those fish much alike to or of the family of gadid that are often seen on fishing boats, though diverse preparations have been tried, are yet to be perfected for us to present to the guests. One by one, I wish to overcome this new challenge.
I am always thankful for the blessings of the sea and the fishermen who courageously continue to challenge unpredictable nature of the sea.





国内の漁師さんと直接取引をするようになってから、2年が経とうとしていますがその間に素敵な人間関係が生まれ、珍しい魚が釣り上げられたり網に入ったりした時、私を喜ばせようと送ってくれるようになりました。新たな美味しい魚を見つけて喜んだり、滑稽な魚の姿でスタッフの間でふざけあったり、太平洋の魚とほとんど同じ形でも全く違う味で驚いたりと、みんなの楽しみになって、またそれがお客様に喜んでいただくことにつながり、嬉しい限りです。
 ボートの上でいつも見ている鱈のような魚を、いろいろなアレンジを加えて料理してみても、まだお店で使う料理に仕上げることが出来ない魚がいるのはちょっぴり寂しいのですが、一つ一つクリアーしてゆきたいと思います。
 海の恵と、悪天候の中海に出てくれる漁師さんにいつでも感謝感謝です。

2013年11月9日土曜日

2nd pop up restaurant in Frieze Master 2013


 Following last year, Frieze Masters art fair was held at Regent’s Park once again and Umu has also successfully showcased pop-up restaurant for the second time within its site. The preparation had begun few months back, and this time around, a team of apprentices took initiatives and showed potential leadership, which led us to great prosperity. To acquire fish of the same standard of quality as those used at the restaurant daily, but doubled or tripled in quantity, was not only difficult but, combined with the unfortunate weather from the middle of the week, became an almost impossible request for the fishermen to meet. However, by the supports from many, we have overcome these 6 days soundly and with huge accomplishments.
I would like to thank again, as I had also expressed in the previous year, to producers& merchants who continue to support us on daily basis, staff of Marc restaurant who flexibly familiarized themselves with serving Japanese cuisine in an also unfamiliar setting, and finally, Umu staff who, by cooperating with one another, carried out hard work at both the pop-up site and the restaurant. Thank you. 





 昨年に引き続き、Frieze Master art fair Regent Parkにて行われ、UMUにとって二度目となるポップアップレストランが終了しました。数ヶ月前から準備を始めましたが、今年は二度目だけあって若手のチームが率先してリーダーシップを発揮し、大盛況に終わりました。Mayfairのお店で使われている魚と全く同じレベルのものを普段の数倍の量揃えるのは大変で、さらに週の半ばからの悪天候になって漁師の方には無理を言いましたが、多くの方の協力もあって無事6日間が終了しました。
 いつもご協力いただいている生産者、業者の方々、初めての日本料理のサービスを、初めての場所で臨機応変に手伝ってくれたMarc restaurantのスタッフ、そしてお店とポップアップレストランの両方を掛け持ちで協力し合ってくれたUMUの全てのスタッフに感謝、感謝の1週間でした。