********** 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 ------------


Vila Vita parc Fine Wines & Food Fair and Fishing with Portuguese fisherman ポルトガルAlgarve でのイベントと伝統漁師と、またまた活けジメ

A world’s leading resort Vila Vita Parc, a 5-star hotel in Algarve I’ve stopped by during my last trip to Portugal, hosted a unique gastronomic event that gathers internationally awarded chefs, “Fine Wines & Food Fair 2015”, for a second time.
I RSVP’d to the invitation jointly with Masato Nishihara, a head chef of Umu for 3 years, moreover an irreplaceable comrade of mine who I’d been cooking side by side since the apprentice era at Kitcho in our 20s. He usually stays back and be the backbone to Umu in my absence, thus this was a rare opportunity for a trip together.
During my visit in the last winter, I toured the port of Sagres guided by a local fishmonger Pedro, and discovered few local fish yet I must admit the disappointment for a hiatus in fishing season due to the Christmas holiday. This time around, I planned our trip with a day to spare, allowing us to create again a setting to learn from traditional thread fishermen. I recognise their interest towards Ikejime as a promising reliability. Most fish at Umu comes in from Cornwall, but Portuguese fish recently added to our selection, mainly warm current varietals, is showing remarkable stability in quality.
Arrived in the afternoon 2 days prior to the event, and immediately began prepping in the kitchen right after we checked-in. We were invited to a wine-pairing dinner in the evening, at hotel’s 2 michelin-starred restaurant, held as a part of the culinary event and hosted by a 3 starred guest chef, Gert De Mangeleer. All the plates, mainly vegetable oriented, simply had nothing to fault. 
The dinner commenced at 7.00pm, nonetheless, the clock was ticking to 11.00pm by we reached a dessert course. We rushed out without having a cup of coffee, to get ready in time to be picked up by Pedro at midnight. He was right on schedule and we arrived at Segres by 1.00am. Stuffed with all the courses and glasses of wine, I felt a little skeptical to go on board out to the sea. Yet I gulped down motion sickness pills, snuggled into a corner of a tiny interior and took a much-needed nap for 2 hours during a journey to the fishing point.
Having said that, the open sea that surrounds the port of Segres receives swelling waves, and I couldn’t pull myself together due to dizziness even when we arrived at the point. It was a long fight with seasick for me, while roughly 6,000 long-line hooks were being thrown in. Masato seemed to be completely knocked down, being nowhere to be found.
Red rockfish was hauled in from the dark deep sea, one by one as the lines were tagged. It was an unique scenery, and also a beautiful one; shining red body of the fish appearing from 600 meters below the sea level. Within the red bunch were a few black-silver objects, Stone bass. This highly priced fish within European markets is also one of my favourites, and this fishing trip served to create a possible breakthrough solution to have it shipped to London, pre-treated with Ikejime. Despite being in the condition that even hard to stand, perceptive crews mastered the technique in no time.
While being thrown back to the floor again during the return trip, an inviting aroma tickled my nose out of blue. Regardless to my almost non-existing appetite, Pedro brought a pot brimming over with a Portuguese style fishermen’s stew. A stocked that filled with the smell of the sea, and potatoes soaked up the sea essence, and more than anything, fresh seafood that still vividly stuck in my mind; I cleaned the pot with sickness totally out of the window, yet I was soon in an immobile state, again. 
Masato appeared from nowhere as we arrived at the port after being down for 16 hours. Being a beginner at the sea, the trip must have become a precious experience for him… right?  
In addition to the ship we went on board which targets relatively deep fishing points, Pedro had spoken to a crew of a boat that does thread fishing at rather shallow points and arranged to keep live sea bass and red sea bream. According to Pedro, young boatmen showed profound interests toward Ikejime, and were looking for an opportunity to see it first hand.  Whipped my body, still in agony even back on the land, and demonstrated Ikejime in the corner of the port. I am delighted every time I see many fishermen gathering and listening with such eagerness. They were staggered by a quick transformation in colour of the sea bream, from blight red to silver-ish hue. The technique is, in fact, a simple process if the logic behind is fathomed, and thanks to Pedro’s professional translation, I could work feeling extra-rewarding with their speedy comprehension.
Next day was finally the day of the event. This trip was entirely blessed with weather and the day did not see one cloud in the sky. My condition was back to perfect, and began preparing from early morning. Each and every staff of the hotel was collaborative and I was allowed to work in an open environment. Special thanks goes to Juliana, a mediator since the receipt of the invitation, whose ample generosity was apparent in her responses, liaised and met everyone’s need precisely and in timely manner, moreover with kindness. Her dependability, not only as a manager but also as a person, let me work freely.
Bonito supplied by Pedro, in quantity that sufficient for serving 300 guests, was more than adequate in its freshness. Smoking them with abundant charcoal and straw had a rustic bliss. To that rusticity, Masato added delicate spices and seasoning of Japanese cuisine, many guests kindly left us with compliments. Only unfortunate thing was a decoration Masato and I created, out of a fallen tree and straw we found on the way back from fishing trip, could not stand out under the dimmed light. All the same, I enjoyed the frenetic, battle-like chaos with an army of fellows.


I send my gratitude to the hotel for the invitation, the kind-hearted staff, and the associated chefs. Last but not least, I send my biggest thanks to Pedro who helped to discover fishermen with passion for Ikejime and spent one whole day with us between his hectic schedules, moreover served the delicious and bewitching fishermen’s pot.


昨年の冬に遊びに行ったポルトガルのAlgarveにある五つ星リーディングリゾートホテルVila Vita Park からの招待で ミシュランの星付きレストランのシェフが一同に集まる今年が二回目のイベント、 Fine Wines & Food Fair 2015”に行ってきました。
2日前の午後にチェックインし、すぐに厨房でイベントに使う食材の仕込みをしました。夜はホテル内にある2つ星のレストラン“Ocean restaurant”で今回のイベントの一環であるベルギーからの三ツ星招待シェフGert De Mangeleerによるワインペアリングディナーにも招待してもらいました。料理は野菜がメインで非の打ちどころのない素晴らしいものでした。
7時から始まったディナーもデザートを食べるころになると 11時を回ってしまい、Pedroが迎えに来る0時に間に合わなくなるのでコーヒーも飲まず、準備に行きました。時間通り0時にピックアップしてもらい、Sagresに着いたのは夜中の1時でした。フルコースで腹いっぱい、ワインも回ったままの乗船は非常に気が引けましたが、酔い止めの薬をいっぱいのみ、狭い船内でかろうじて仮眠をしました。漁場まではおよそ2時間の行程です。
はえ縄を回収していると沖カサゴが面白いように上がってきました。600メートルの深い海から上ってくる赤色の魚体はとてもきれいでした。その赤い魚の中に大きな黒銀色の魚、Stone Bass(イシナギ)が時々混じってきます。ヨーロッパでもとても高級な魚ですが私の大好きな魚の一つで、今回漁に同行した目的はこの魚を何とか活けジメにしてロンドンに送ってもらえないかということでした。立っているだけでも大変な状況でしたが船のクルー達は物わかりが早く、すぐにマスターしてくれました。





Welsh heritage fishing “Coracle” ウェールズの伝統遺産漁法“コラクル”

In the early May, right in the gorgeous season of fresh verdure, I travelled to Cotswold to see Mr. Dai, and watch sea trout and Atlantic salmon fishing practiced only in a few countable number of regions in Wales. Fishermen specializing in the traditional coracle fishing asked of me to perform Ikejime, since they’d seen me at the Elver releasing event hosted by Dai.

The fishing is carried out by a pair of coracles, a small, willow-structured boat with a mere capacity of one adult, hauling a gill net together in between while skillfully rowing an oar in the other hand, catching trout and salmon that come swimming upstream from an estuary. The type of fishing that’d long been passed on as a tradition in Wales is devised for fish with strict regulation on its volume of catch, moreover the method itself is recognized as a heritage allowing only handful of permitted specialists to practice, and currently only 10 of them exist.
Most of these sea-run varieties swim upwards along high tides, thus it is crucial to foresee and grasp the opportunity in the right timing. Especially sea trout is known to come upstream in late nights during spring tide, and this trip was planned accordingly to its season.
I was picked up from the station close to Dai’s house on the day, and treated a light yet luxurious supper at his place including dishes made of Iberico ham and smoked salmon.  Dai’s house, located within a small town of Cotswold, has a charming stone-built exterior unique to the region, with equally attractive interior equipped with a stone-kiln oven and Italian-made Tamagnini’s ham slicer. The depth of his dedication towards what interests him, to create and design such a lavishing space with his own hands that serves as his own cooking studio amazed me. 
Headed towards Wales and arrived at the river around 2.00 a.m. The fishing had already begun, though no sign of catch was seen. I patiently observed from the riverbank up until around 4.00 a.m., unfortunately not one fish was caught, and therefore I could not perform Ikejime this time around. Nevertheless, we said our goodbyes with a promise to meet again when next opportunity arises.

 The shadow of them walking with coracles over their shoulder in the dead of night almost striked me as big turtles, which adds another interesting and unique aspect to the fishing. The good people of Wales who value and pass on the tradition simultaneously with considering for the limited resources of the fish left me nothing but profound respect.







Young chef’s competition and visiting Portuguese fisherman 和食コンペティションとポルトガルの伝統漁師

November last year, a preliminary round of a competition for rising young chefs specialising in Japanese cuisine overseas, an event sponsored by the ministry of agriculture, held in London before the final round taking place Japan. I was appointed as a chairman of the occasion as well as a demonstrator.
An established food writer Mr. Matthew Fort, celebrity chefs, Mr. Brett Graham from Ledbury and Mr. Yasuhiro Mineno from Yashin Ocean House, had formed a judging committee.
Daniel from Yashin Ocean House and Pzemyslaw from our very own Umu team had been selected to compete after passing the requirements of holding non-Japanese nationality and working as a resident chef in London-based Japanese restaurant, and both chefs disputed with Wagyu beef being the theme ingredient. The contestants handled the unaccustomed ingredient with their utmost effort, creating dishes with high degree of integrity. After a close race, Daniel won by an extremely slim margin, and gained a ticket to Japan.
To keep up with the topic “Japanese culinary manners to ingredients”, a demonstration consisted of introduction to Ikejime fish preserving techniques, moreover as an interpretation of Japanese concept “Mottainai” – a term expressing remorse towards waste – I performed cooking methods that can consume every part of fish from its head, bone and even to its guts.
One of the merchants in the audience, who deals fish from Portugal, showed great interest in the Ikejime technique, and subsequently I tried out a range of fish received from him on several occasions. The surprisingly extremely high quality fish, which in addition had extraordinary freshness compare to London market, were unlike those belong to cold-water within the proximity of Britain, but comprised of fish generally preferring warm water such as bonito, longtooth grouper and sea bream, and for its rarity, I gradually added to Umu’s menu.
Having to see keen curiosity of a group of Portugese fishermen towards Ikejime technique, and being enchanted with traditional thread fishing contributing to the local market by sustaining good quality fish, I visited Portugal at the end of the year.
After a short 3-days stay in Lisbon, I headed towards Algarve region in the south to meet Pedro, a middleman in the distribution line. Courtesy to his guide, I got to enjoy varieties of fresh natural ingredients such as local seafood, shellfish, Iberian black pork and an olive oil, some of which are rarely seen in UK.
Regrettably due to Christmas and New Year’s holiday season, fishing boats being out on the shore were almost none, and understandably fish could only be seen sparsely at the auction too.  Nonetheless with Pedro’s arrangement, we managed to locate a sea bass, on which I demonstrated ikejime to the fishermen. They watched with eagerness and growing interest in their eyes, and we part ways with a promise to teach the technique once again in the future, but next time would be on the boat with the freshest fish.  

著名なフードライターのMatthew Fort、セレブリティーシェフ、LedburyBrett Graham, Yashin ocean houseの峯野シェフが審査委員会として駆けつけてくれました。
コンペティションは和牛をテーマにロンドンの日本料理店で働く日本人国籍を持たない、将来を期待される料理人という条件で選抜され、Yashin ocean houseDanielと当店UMUPrzemyslawのあいだで争われました。二人とも使い慣れない和牛を一生懸命使いこなし、完成度の高い料理を作っていました。接戦の末、非常に僅差でDanielが勝ち、日本行の切符を手にしました。