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Tetsuya Wakuda - Impress

Tetsuya wakuda has led one of the most successful restaurants to world wide acclaim, mentoring a plethora of culinary talents along the way with his kind and trusting nature.

Tetsuya’s kitchen has likely turned out more talent than any other restaurant in Australia – but I’m not just talking about the food. A hot-bed for culinary excellence, the alumni is as diverse as it is plentiful – with chefs who have gone on to run three-hatted (and Michelin starred) restaurants, smoke-houses and casual beach-side diners.

Tetsuya Wakuda is a gentle, humble man. He is also a world-renowned culinary figure. Over three decades, Tetsuya’s has earned a reputation as one of the country’s best – one of the last bastions of traditional fine dining – rating in the World’s 50 Best, gathering scores of chef’s hats and now, with his Singapore restaurant Waku Ghin, Michelin stars.

The story of Wakuda’s entry into the restaurant world is the stuff of legend. It was 1983 and, having recently arrived from Japan, he started work washing pots in Tony Bilson’s kitchen at Kinsellas.

“I wasn’t originally there to be a cook. It was a temporary thing,” he explains, “but I really enjoyed working with him (Bilson) in the kitchen and working in the restaurant with all different people. To be honest, I never thought that was working. I enjoyed every moment.”

Wakuda’s lack of formal training may have helped foster his creativity in a system that is renowned for the opposite. “Tony would say, ‘I want this, this, this and this’, all the chefs in that time are very classically trained. Great chefs, too – they understood. I didn’t.”

Many years later, when Daniel Pepperell, now highly-acclaimed head chef of Sydney’s Hubert, started at Tetsuya’s he was treading a familiar path. “I was an 18-year-old dishwasher from Cronulla. Not knowing anything to compare it to, it seemed pretty tough and very disciplined. Looking back, it was one of the best kitchen teams i’ve ever worked with. A lot of talented chefs came out of there in that period. It was the golden era! Tetsuya is very humble. He was fierce, but always fair.”

An inspiring leader

Try Tetsuya Wakuda’s salmon carpaccio with wasabi recipe

Pepperell is one of many accomplished chefs to have spent time in  Tetsuya’s kitchen: Martin Benn (Sepia), Dan Hong (Mr Wong), Emma mccaskill (The Pot Food and Wine), Darren Robertson and Mark La Brooy (Three Blue Ducks), Dave Pynt (Burnt Endz), Kylie Javier-Ashton (Momofuku Seiobo), Luke Powell and Shannon Debreceny (LP’s Quality Meats), Dan Puskas (Sixpenny), Sam Christie (Longrain). And this is just the tip of the culinary iceberg.

Kylie Javier-Ashton, one of Sydney’s finest maitre d’s, plied her trade on the floor at Tetsuya’s. “Tetsuya was quiet but impactful,” she says of her experience. “There were times where he raised his voice, but it was what he didn’t say that was most powerful. He was incredibly focused, and his vision was very clear, which made him an inspiring leader. My time there taught me so much about caring for others.”

Taking a new lead

Try Tetsuya Wakuda's Marron with truffle mayonnaise recipe

As the Tetsuya’s alumni have spread their wings and creativity, so too has Wakuda. Six years ago he opened Waku Ghin in Singapore, the restaurant was recently awarded two Michelin stars (a measure of excellence still not available in Australia). The legacy continues to grow.

“I just thought about leadership,” Wakuda says thoughtfully. “Make sure you give them breathing space, allow them to put their own idea into it. Of course, if something is terribly wrong, I will tell them, but if it is OK, then OK. Let them be free, within a parameter.” This was the respect and luxury afforded to him by Bilson, an environment he thrived in.

Luke Powell, former head chef, recalls his early days with Tetsuya’s when he prepped the same dish for six months. He bored quickly but kept at it. It taught him the value of consistency and attention to detail. “Despite a few of us trying to steer away from this ethos by going casual or cooking rustic food, I think it is too ‘hard wired’ to let go,” he says. “This attention to detail, along with his incredibly humility, will be the legacy that is recognisable amongst Tetsuya’s protégés.”

For all he has done, we owe a great deal of gratitude to Wakuda. Not just for the decades serving us, but for the talent fostered under his care and in his kitchen, a legacy that will be felt for decades to come.

Recipes

Try Tetsuya Wakuda’s sushi at home recipe

For the ‘at home’ recipes featured in this issue, Tetsuya shows that delicious food doesn’t need to be complicated, but should be shared.

“A restaurant is precise – but when you are at home, make sure the host and guests can sit together – this is very important,’ says Tetsuya. “I’ve designed these recipes to be put in the middle and serve yourself.”

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Massimo Bottura - Nourishing the soul
Words by Interview Lyndey Milan Words Mark Hughes on 12 Dec 2017
In the process of trying to recreate a food memory, chef Massimo Bottura started a movement that was designed to fight food waste, but has grown into a social triumph. In the opening to his latest book, Bread is Gold , Italian chef Massimo Bottura tells the story of how every morning he would fight with his brothers for the leftover bread from the previous night’s dinner to dip in warm milk with a splash of coffee and a liberal pouring of sugar. It is one of his fondest memories, reminding him of delicious food, but also time with his family and his dearly departed mother. A few years ago, he thought about recreating the recipe, and trying to recapture that glorious memory. It was the catalyst that evolved into a concept that evolved into social change. But more on that later. In essence, taking old food memories and recreating them is what has made Massimo famous and seen him reach the very top of the chef world. For the last few years his restaurant, Osteria Francescana in Modena on the northern outskirts of Milan, has been ranked in the top three in the world, last year, No.1, this year just behind New York’s Eleven Madison. A culinary renaissance
At Francescana, Massimo has taken Italian classics, memories and culinary ideas and transported them into the modern world. Combing his love of art and music with his culinary talent to create dishes titled Memories of a Mortadella Sandwich, The Crunchy Part of Lasagne, and his signature Five Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano. It’s been a culinary renaissance. Of course, messing with traditional Italian cooking created quite a stir in Italy and for that measure, it is understandable that he gained recognition internationally before he was eventually praised at home. And while Massimo has explored plenty of Italian history for his dishes, he insists he still has a wealth of heritage for future culinary inspirations, for the rest of his life, at the very least. “Maybe for 10 lives,” he says when chatting with Lyndey Milan at a special event organised by Italian coffee company Lavazza in Sydney earlier this year. “We have centuries of tradition that we can reinterpret and rediscover. “For instance, last autumn we created this dish detailed by a philosopher from Rome, Petronius, in a book of his. Over three pages he described an amazing dish with a beautiful big bird filled with another bird, filled with another bird, and then many small birds and then dates and figs – for me, that’s Italy. “So this is what I say to Italian chefs when they look for the next trend. Let’s be honest. Let’s go deep into our history and try to bring the best from the past into the future, not in a nostalgic way, but in a critical way.” A chance to make a change These days, Massimo is lauded for his ideas and for returning Italian cuisine to the top of the culinary world. He has used his time in the spotlight to full advantage. During Expo 2015 in Milan, Massimo was invited to cook for dignitaries. Instead, he used the opportunity to make a statement about food waste. His initial idea was to do a short-term pop-up at the city’s central train station and invite the world’s best chefs to cook leftover food for the homeless. But then, apparently, the Pope got involved. His holiness heard the chef’s idea, but thought it could be something done long term. Through the Catholic charity Caritas, an abandoned theatre in the poorest suburb of Milan was made available for Massimo’s ‘community kitchen’. He took the opportunity. Not wanting it to be a regular soup kitchen, he recruited well-known artists and designers to help transform the venue into a warm, inviting space, a restaurant for those who most likely have never even seen inside a Michelin-starred venue. It was named, Refettorio Ambrosiano, a Refettorio being a place where monks and nuns would eat their daily meals. “In a world where one third of the food we produce is thrown away, we need to ask ourselves: Could food wastage and hunger be an expression of the same problem? We believe so,” Massimo asks in Bread is Gold, a diary and collection of recipes from the Refettorio Ambrosiano project. Over the following months, more than 65 chefs turned surplus ingredients collected from the exhibition’s pavilions into nutritious meals served to the homeless and people in need in the area. Names like Ferran Adria, Rene Redzepi, Ana Ros and Alain Ducasse used their creative powers to turn discarded food into delicious dishes. “It was challenging and rewarding to be a chef in that kitchen. It brought out the best in everyone,” says Massimo. “And it’s important to show that chefs in 2017 are not just the sum of their recipes, we are much more than that. People need to know we are social agents and we can give to the people, to the world an example.” Nourishing the soul
Following this initial success, Massimo and his wife, Lara established Food for Soul, a non-profit organisation dedicated to nourishing the underprivileged. The Social Tables project in Bologna followed, then Refettorio Gastromotiva in Rio, converting surplus food from the Olympic Games into healthy meals. Refettorio Felix opened in London in June and there’s plans for projects in Berlin and the United States. “Food for Soul is not a charity project but a cultural one. Sharing a meal is not just a source of nourishment, but a gesture of inclusion,” says Massimo. “In looking for solutions to fight food waste, we found a wider impact. We became aware that a good meal in a beautiful and welcoming environment can change a community. “Will the role of chefs define the future of food? I am an optimist and I believe that we are already making positive change. A recipe, after all, is a solution to a problem. Choose to be part of the solution by cooking and sharing a meal around a table. It might be the most revolutionary thing you do all day.”
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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