Nihon-Ryōri 日本料理

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 17.09.48This is a painting by Sen no Rykiu called the intoxication of the moon-Suigetsu

I have been around Nihon Ryori since the age of 5 and was fortunate to absorbe the many aspects that materialises around this beautiful culture and cuisine which filled my hart with many feelings for the japanese culture and life itself from deep within.

I have studied and still am studying the living culture of japan and of life from may perspectives but of course having dedicated myself to being a Japanese chef, it is what I  am on a journey on , to constantly rediscover deeper and deeper, as to what it’s nature really is. Coming closer and closer to the essence of life  ultimately helps me appreciate the depth that lies within Kyoto Ryori and Nihon Ryori .

Many activities help me to find these connections to japanese cuisine. Nature is the most prominent of teachers and following this root definitely brings you very close to the essence of japanese cuisine.

Tea ceremony is a wonderful aspect to practice as well as Ikebana, Kyudo, pottery, poetry and reading as well as meditation are all examples of things that help to study this beautiful cuisine.

Kyoto Ryori having its roots in the tea ceremony and by the 16th century, tea drinking had spread to all levels of society in Japan. Sen no Rikyū , is perhaps the most well-known—and still revered—historical figure in tea ceremony, followed his master Takeno Jōō‘s concept of ichi-go ichi-e, a philosophy that each meeting should be treasured, for it can never be reproduced. His teachings perfected many newly developed forms inarchitecture and gardensart, and the full development of “the “way of tea”. The principles he set forward—harmony (和 wa?), respect (敬 kei?), purity (清 sei?), and tranquility (寂 jaku?)—are still central to tea ceremony.

The tea ceremony has its influences from Buddhism and Shinto aspects reflecting that it is not the object that we perceive itself that is so fascinating but what we want to cultivate and find within!

“Though many people drink tea,

if you do not know the Way of Tea,

tea will drink you up.”

Human being in tune with the universe- to better oneself and living in line with the ultimate potential that is limitless through the way of tea.

This is just brief. The japanese works of cultural documents are to vast to mention in detail in this short blog but you will find many references and I encourage you to study.

The discipline of japanese cuisine is intense but this is another aspect which I will write about another time.

My personal journey as a japanese chef is unconventional but no less valuable then a full traditional training in Japan itself. I will write a article about my journey soon.

The reason I am writing this short article is because here in the west we have so many japanese restaurants that are not japanese at all and the essence and the way of life/tea/ culture is little bit left aside which is terribly sad.

Being a japanese chef is a way of life and we cultivate all to our own limitations. I would like to braden those limitation here in the west as we now encounter a time that may be more open for this. We now have developed a strong sense of seasonality and sustainability here in the UK, in New York it is even more established and is part of urban life in a big city,  japanese cuisine is the ultimate celebration of this.

My master said that he could explain everything there is to know about being a japanese chef in 5 minutes, however it would mean nothing! He always sed when he does anything he does it with his whole life and totality possible and this nobody can just explain to anyone.

I get approached constantly about helping owners to produce another Nobu chain which I can understand. Nobu is a great business module and so attractive to be a owner of however this is already done and there is so much more to consider.  Japanese Culture cuisine can be a great and endless possibility’s for new ideas can arise creating new concepts that may be more suitable for the times we live in now.

At the very center and hart of everything in life there is only ultimate potential and working from and with this is what really makes me happy as a chef.

I did not become a chef because I wanted to be what I saw, I became a chef because what I realised which was a direct universe of beauty from within, an expression of this ultimate potential and universal vibration so close to life and how nature expresses itself is no short of a miracle.

Over and over you will find paintings in Zen and in japanese culture that reference enigmatic moments captures as in the painting of the tea master Sen no Rykiu the intoxication of the moon which is a beautifull example of a man that is at one with Nature and the universe at a very refined level.

I grew up very close to Mifune’s Restaurant in Munich run my his son. This is were I was first exposed to the culture of Japan. He actually acted in a movie about Sen no Rykiu called Honkakubô ibun- Death of a Teamaster. Toshiro Mifune was a great actor of Japan filming many cult movies.

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A very great chef of Kyoto once told me to not try and copy and try to be like me but to find my way through nature and the practice of Zen.

I believe that Zen is free of religion and we can find the pure essence of it anywhere.

I wrote this article because the spiritual aspect is very important to my personal work and has been the catalist and soul of Kyoto Ryori but not many chefs in the west speak this aspect that I know. mostly ithe discussions revolve around sciences however it is good to put the science and the perceptive spiritual culture together. Some chefs do have a very strong bond to nature in there work which is wonderful to see and these chefs usually are the ones that resonate the strongest with japan.

I just wanted to share this video with you as it is a very good introduction of principles that have been with us before we can imagine but is hard to explain. Through animation it is more easy to explain what we consider to be invisible or spiritual subjects.

This is just to encourage an open mind about how we live, what we do and how we work- the universe works and by getting closer to that ,we will find only miracles.

Science and religion spirituality is coming closer and closer like never before helping us to understand and suport us to create new designs and ideas that will be better for our environment and the spirit of man living more harmoniously for the future to come.

There is so much to say on this subject however I am only able to provide a glimpse by showing this simple video and my feeling on the matter.

Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace
– Buddha

Here is a basic article about Tea ceremony:

http://thehomelesschefs.com/category/every-so-often-there-comes-a-man/

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What is the most important ingredient in Kyoto cuisine?

WATER

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In order to be a great chef you need to learn the nature of things deeply and also learn how to think.

Many chefs go everywhere in the world to do STAGE work placement for free from one day – a year etc  inorder to gain experience and also to build up there CV’s. I regularly read about young chefs that  have been here and there traveling then making a restaurant. In japan that does not go down so well as training to be a very good chef is through discipline and long years as a apprentice . Being in a lot of places of high acclaim does not make you a good chef necessarily.

It is important to do these stages of course  however the most important thing to develop as a chef is often overlooked and that is to develop an interest to try to really understand as much as one can about the natural nature of things and how to think for yourself. Ferran Adria more then anything really wants people/ chefs to do exactly this.

Nobody expects you to become a professor but the intention to try to make a deeper relation to the nature of nature is something that will benefit your cuisine much more then you can imagine.

You have to ask yourself or with others questions inorder to come closer to what you really want and need to know.

I just want to encourage everyone to look at water for example more deeply. Not just follow but try to experience Water and learn about Water if you are a chef or not.

How you want to do this is up to you the internet is a great starting place and see what you can find. Please send me anything that you might particularly find interesting and I keep adding links to this article for others to have a look at.

I will just briefly share some things about Kyoto and the significance of water in Japanese culture.

In Kyoto WATER is and always has been a very significant natural element that is at the center of Kyoto Ryori.

Kaiseki (懐石?) or kaiseki-ryōri (懐石料理?) is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner. The term also refers to the collection of skills and techniques that allow the preparation of such meals, and are analogous to Western haute cuisine.

There are basically two kinds of traditional Japanese meal styles called kaiseki or kaiseki-ryōri. The first, where kaiseki is written as 会席 (and kaiseki-ryōri, 会席料理), referring to a set menu of select food served on an individual tray (to each member of a gathering). The other is written 懐石 or 懐石料理, referring to the simple meal that the host of a chanoyugathering serves to the guests before a ceremonial tea, and which is also known as cha-kaiseki (茶懐石).

In Kyoto Dashi ( a very specific stock used for the base of dishes ) is a fundamental key to the hart of Kyoto Ryori and water is extremely specific as to what atributes it has to have.

Many of you may have read or seen japanese chefs from kyoto use Volvic bottles of water when away from kyoto.

Murata-san the grand master of Kikunoi in Kyoto has worked with local university researchers to find out the optimum method for making dashi by extracting the maximum umami flavour from the ingredients.

Firstly you need soft water, like the water they have from the mountains that surround Kyoto (the city is famous for its water which is why its sake, tofu and fu are so renowned throughout Japan). If your water is too hard, it won’t extract the best flavour which is related to  PH values etc. Volvic being the closest alternatieve.

When Murata-san traveled to a book launch to London, he brought his own water with him. There was one restaurant in the UK that claimed they flew in there water from Kyoto specially.

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So now, even though I agree that Water is fundamental in Kyoto Ryori, I also see the implication the information above could have on the environment if everyone jumps on the bandwagon with out thinking about this in more detail. One also needs to understand a little about the natural constitution of Kyoto historically, the wells, the sake culture, the mountains that surround kyoto basically something about how water behaves and has behaved in the past and present. Water always changes and adapts there are reasons for the water to have its unique “flavour” depending on what is going on in and around or what is influencing the water at that moment in time.

Is water really significantly determined by hardness or softness? The flavour of this, the hardness, is definitely very distinctively different however- what I want to really investigate is, the total capacity of what the miracle of water is and that there are other aspects to look at inorder to find the best possible water for Kyoto Ryori or for what ever you are wanting to produce from beer to Sake, Tofu etc.

There is so much more to say about the significance of water in Kyoto/ Japan and I will update as best as I can on my blog in the future.

Indeed there is so much more to say about WATER and our relationship to it GLOBALLY.  Everyone has seen something about the terrible things that have and are happening to our water and the overfishing and global warming etc. and it is really urgent that we all try to do our best to get to know water on a more intimate and personal level no matter who you are. It is really overdue to recognise that water unites us all and gives us life itself and we need to take care and show gratitude.

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Dr. Masaru Emoto offers prayers before shipping out boxes of “Love and Gratitude Water” to afflicted peoples of Japan effected  in the afflicted areas of Miyagi, Fukushima and Iwate prefectures in Japan. This is a great thing to do and it is importnat to collectively show our gratitude to our Water.

I wish we would adopt a global world water day tradition because it is an important practice for us human beings beyond anything else in life, to acknowledge what is our life force before anything else!  It would be educational and awareness enhancing to all generations and it may help to inspire people to spend more attention to our WATER!

Water in my personal opinion needs to be looked at much more holistically and Ho2 is only describing water very basically and impersonally for example. Any isolated characteristic is only an aspect:  so what or who is water?

If water is so changeable what is my relationship with water? As we are predominantly made of water we should know so much more about water, should we not?

What does the fish know of the water that it lives in? Probably more then us to be honest.

Certain instruments have made it possible  to record the fact that within each water memory cell it contains

440 000 information panels! Each of which is responsible for its own type of reaction to the environment.

Water has a structure like a nervous system which reacts to any irritation.

Water in its NATURAL form in its NATURAL ENVIRONMENT is incredibly alive and has intelligence amongst many other atributes and I doubt that by transporting water in tanks abroad or in bottles that it is really what we should be looking for in our water. To challenge this I am suggesting more research and study of what the true nature of water is.

Were did water come from Theory National Geographic:

http://www.howstuffworks.com/environmental/earth/geophysics/water-come-from.htm

The next question is what is the water like were you are, what is happening to your water, why are things added into the water, should I test my water, were is a natural water source closest to were I live, what does water mean to you, what is your relationship with water, how can the relationship with water make me a better person and a better chef, how can I help to treat water more better………we need to have gratitude to water, water is our best friend and it is what connects as all and more!

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From Masaru Emoto
Emoto Peace Project:

2013年3月8日金曜日

My sincere request to the concerned people in the world

March 11th, 2013 will mark 2 years after the Great East Japan Earthquake devastated Japan. Measuring at a magnitude 9, the earthquake created a huge tsunami to follow, that hit the Tohoku area of Japan at 2:46 pm that day.Literally destroying everything in its path, including victimizing 18,574 people. Sadly there are still 2,694 people who are missing as a result of the tsunami’s powerful surge, taking them back out to sea. In addition, the earthquake created meltdowns at the Fukushima Nuclear reactors that resulted in a lot radioactive substances leaking into the ocean waters of Japan, contaminating the Pacific Ocean.In 1997, I was with a Buddhist monk, Rev. Kato who cleansed dirty dam water with his prayers at the Fujiwara dam lake in Gunma Prefecture of Japan. I would like to share this important story with you.
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Me with Rev. Kat
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Water Crystal Photo – before the prayer
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Water Crystal Photo – after the prayer
My interpretation of the 2 photos is that they were certainly a good indicator about the condition of the lake at that time. The water crystal before the prayer shows design that looks like a figure of suffering female face. On the other hand, the water crystal after the prayer turned out to be divine in showing lights around the water crystal.
Another example of how our prayers effect water, In the early morning of July 25th in 1999, 340 people were gathered for a water ceremony at Lake Biwa the biggest lake of Japan. At that time, Lake Biwa was so polluted that horrid odors were emitting from the lake. A few days after we went there to offer prayers, the local newspaper reported that suddenly there was no longer bad odors emitting from Lake Biwa.
So from these experiences, I learned that if our prayers and intentions are pure, with using water as medium, multi-dimensional power can take place.
I would like to help those missing 2,694 people who are still missing after 2 years past from the disaster. I would like to protect and heal the oceans from contamination of radioactive substances. I am sure that you feel the same way. In order to do so, we need numerous numbers of people at the same time to join together to send pure prayers to souls of the victims.
I speak of this well known Einstein theory at my seminars:
E = MC2  Mass–energy equivalence by Albert Einstein
I believe the true meaning and power of this equation is
ENERGY = # of people x CONCSIOUSNESS2
The amount of energy or power of the prayer is determined by amount of people who collective connect their pure hearts at the same time. Therefore, I would like to request the everyone around the world to join together for a Simultaneous Global Prayer at exactly 2:46pm Japan time on March 11th. Together we will collectively send our sincere prayers with the following words.
To the victims lost in the oceans and to the water in Pacific Ocean which has suffered radioactive contamination from the nuclear accident in Fukushima.
“I am sorry, please forgive me, thank you and I love you.”
(Repeat 3 times)
Where: Right from where you are.
When: Match 11, 2013
Time: 2:46pm Japan Time
*** Use this Time Convertor Link to find out what time 2:46pm Japan time is in your time zone.  http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/converter.html
My sincere love and thanks to each and every one of you for your simultaneous participation in collectively connecting to your heart for this powerful global prayer.
With sincere love and gratitude,
Masaru Emoto
Emoto Peace Project
Water the future:

Hiroyoshi Ishida

Hiroyoshi Ishida  is cooking for 40 years.  He is a buddhist but not a monk, all his dishes have a spiritual sense. Meditation is, for him and his wife, a daily practice.

The Japanese chef feels devotion to freedom which is a mirror of creativity. Because the architect of Mibu “is a lone wolf, who has maintained the individuality in a kitchen that  is also marked by traditional schemes.

Ishida has developed a unique signature cuisine. Ferran Adrià liked his technique and creativity and the fact of being unique. Both reflect his spirit on the plate, as the Impressionists.Mibu his restaurant in barely advertised and in a seemingly normal pedestrian area in Ginza. If you did not know it is there you would not even see it really.

A tiny room 20 m2, a table for eight guests, and a unique exclusivity. This is the avant-garde restaurant Mibu, owned Hiroyoshi, Ishida, renowned Japanese chef. And it is trendy restaurant, situated in the fashionable Ginza district in Tokyo, is all the rage, despite its high cost, a few thousand euros per person.

A booking made months and even years in advance, can give you the luxury of dining at this prestigious restaurant, which is two hours of ritual. Only members and guests have access to Mibu, once a month and already made a reservation in advance. Without reaching questions, Mibu has earned its reputation as a restaurant is complete in all respects.

The menu is based on traditional Kaiseki cuisine, a cuisine that is both food quality and artistic quality, a key role in avant-garde cuisine. They are delicious for the eye as the palate. The menu is updated every month, and in each seasonal the products  color, texture and taste is different.

To have a meal in such a unique setting and with such an experienced and artistic chef like  Hiroyoshi Ishida is indescribable and unforgettable. This is pure and magic.

Ishida Hiroyoshi prepare your meal with a spirituality that characterizes it, is that Ferran Adria already said once: “The big difference between European and Ishida is that the former can cook with the hands, with the senses, the brain and even with affection, but never with the soul as he does. “

New Peruvian Japanese Fusion Restaurant Barcelona…by Ferran

When ever there is a japanese restaurant opening anywere in the world, especially Ferran’s….I am SUPER interested!!!!

Japanese cuisine is my life and my passion. I am probably more a japanese restaurant then a person.

I am constantly investigating and learning. I could not have any better occupation as this truly keeps me learned.

The realms of japanese food culture is imbedded in art, philosophy, spirituality, poetry, culture, architecture, poetry  porcelain,methods, techniques,nature, …the facets are diverse, devine and so incredibly refined enough to keep minds busy for century’s to come.

For me the fascination for japanese cuisine and culture, the history the imagination and passion  will never ever fade.

I am definitely not alone with these feelings, as japan ignites many chefs to find new ways in there culinary search for evolution, aiding in many new investigations making japan ever more relevant for all chefs of all generations and nationalities.

Japan century’s ago was hosting a style of eating and cooking philosophy’s that was incredibly futuristic and suitable for modern society to come.

Ferran Adria has always loved Japanese cuisine and now he will open a 30 seater restaurant right next door to Tickets in Barcelona featuring “NIKKEI” which is the peruvian japanese fusion that exists in peru for more then 120 years.

He will focus on certain vegetables carefully selected from Japan and south america for his new menu.

Nikkei is a term usually used for Japanese people who migrate:

The Japanese migration, and its individual members known as nikkei (日系), are Japanese emigrants from Japan and their descendants that reside in a foreign country. Emigration from Japan first happened and was recorded as early as the 12th century to the Philippines, but did not become a mass phenomenon until the Meiji Era, when Japanese began to go to North America, beginning in 1897 with 35 emigrants to Mexico; and later Latin America, beginning in 1899 with 790 emigrants to Peru. There was also significant emigration to the territories of the Empire of Japan during the colonial period; however, most such emigrants repatriated to Japan after the end of World War II in Asia.

According to the Association of Nikkei and Japanese Abroad, there are about 2.5 million nikkei living in their adopted countries. The largest of these foreign communities are in Brazil, the United States, and the Philippines. Descendants of emigrants from the Meiji Era still hold recognizable communities in those countries, forming separate ethnic groups from Japanese peoples in Japan.

Nobu also is a global Nikkai and his first place to migrate was Peru about 35 years ago:

Most famous and pioneering Peruvian/ Japanese fusion Chef  NOBU MATSUHISA has 42 japanese Peruvian fusion restaurants worldwide.

Nobu in Peru

Here is a short comment from Nobu as to how he migrated to Peru:

When Nobu was 24 he was working in Tokyo at Matsuai restaurant were he met a “Nikkei” from Peru:

“At Matsuei I met a Peruvian of Japanese descent who used to stop in for sushi about twice a year. One day – I was about 24 – he asked me quite seriously if I would consider moving with him to Peru to open a sushi restaurant. It was a dream come true, and I agreed at once. My father was a lumber merchant who died when I was seven. Whenever I felt sad, I used to stare at a photograph of him taken on the Pacific island of Palau, where he had once traveled to buy lumber. I wanted to be like my father. Staring at the photo I knew that I too would go overseas some day.

Lima was the perfect town for a sushi chef. With the Pacific Ocean nearby, fresh fish was never in short supply. And at the time – about 35 years ago – there were only three or four other Japanese restaurants in town. Yet Mitsubishi and many other big Japanese corporations had invested in Peru, so there were plenty of Japanese businessmen looking for good sushi.

I was a 49% stakeholder in the restaurant, but I had to do everything. Just as I had done during my apprentice days in Japan, I opened and cleaned the restaurant, put together the menus and made basic sauces. Back then you couldn’t jog down to the corner store to buy fish paste or other specialized Japanese ingredients, so I created everything from scratch, through trial and error. A lot of what I experimented with in Peru became part of my repertoire later on.”

The rest is history leading Nobu to be the most successful japanese chef world wide.

Peruvian and japanese fusion is still an exiting cuisine prospect and there is so much room for more investigations and developments.

I always felt it is important to refresh and reignite the work that Nobu has set such high bars for.

With the current peruvian/ south american global wave it is now of course the best opportunity to work with this wonderful and exiting concept of peruvian “Nikkei” cuisine.

The atmosphere of peruvian japanese food is very fun and upbeat suitable for the multicultural social, fashionistas and foodies alike.

Traditional Japanese is much more serious and demands a lot of deep knowledge, understanding and training apart form many other factores that are not easy to master or be respected for if you yourself are not from japan.

Upon many restaurants world wide copying Nobus style and menu has left a kind of confused in many people’s understanding of what real japanese food is.

To date there are not many japanese restaurants that are really japanese. Mostly the concepts get modified and customised for europeans.

Traditional Japanese food is perhaps difficult to convey in fast moving western societies so far from japan as it would require a lot of elements that are not readily available. As well there are required setting and atmospheres that  are important. In my experience staffing that have the skills required and the cultural education for example as tea ceremony “Cha Keiseki” and so on is not easy to employ.

I do feel it is not impossible however it takes a dedication and disciplin to establish that is incredibly intense and requires financial considerations.

It is so specific that many shy away from this prospect as heavy criticism follows by the japanese themselves.

In Kyoto having visited many masters, they rarely say about the other that they are great ( they dont say anything bad it is in the posture and look ). There is a kind of view of each other that is very hard to describe. Lets say there is a lot of pride which I do not condem, I understand the mentality and respect it to however it can be very hard.

Ferran Adria claims that Japanese Cuisine has had the biggest influence on his cooking career.

All over spain many  great chefs like Quique-Dacosta, Dani Garcia, Joan Roca and many more, all have a special place in there hart and influences from japanese techniques and ingredients in there menu’s.

Back in July, it was announced that Ferran Adria was teaming up with brother and business partnerAlbert Adria to open a Japanese restaurant in Barcelona. Details about the venture had been scarce until now.

In an interview with Peruvian publication El Comercio, Ferran said he was excited about returning to the kitchen. He explained the restaurant was Albert’s idea and will accomodate only 30 diners. The yet-to-be-named restaurant will feature Nikkei cuisine, a style of cooking native to Peru which blends Peurvian and Japanese ingredients and techniques.

When asked if he intended to reinvent fusion, Ferran insisted the restaurant will be strictly a blend of Peruvian and Japanese cuisine but with one exception: ”We want to incorporate – something that doesn’t exist in the Japanese or Peruvian cooking – working with vegetables.”

As for Nikkei cuisine, Ferran is passionate about bringing it to the international spotlight. ”In Japan, if you talk about Nikkei, they don’t know what it is, it’s incredible…The best part of Nikkei cooking is that it allows you to be more free…this type of cuisine is still being built and there is a long way to go, and this is fantastic,” he said.

Opening a Nikkei restaurant may seem odd at first but Ferran has been a fan of Japanese food for a longtime. The chef recently acknowledged  Japanese food influenced his last 10 years at elBulli, which was named the world’s best restaurant a whopping five times.

Ferran and Albert also plan to open a Mexican restaurant in Barcelona, all while keeping busy with the elBulli Foundation projects.

The news isn’t much of a surprise, given that the brothers have made several moves in the past year that suggest a desire for expansion: first there was Tickets and 41 Degrees, then the Mexican project, then a store, then a cocktail bar in London, and now this.

Not to mention their fascination with Japanese food, which became a major influence on the cooking at elBulli in the restaurant’s last decade. In an Eater interview last year, for instance, Ferran noted, “I didn’t go to Asia until 2002, when I went to China, Thailand, and Japan. And you could say that in the last five or six years, Japan has been and continues to be a major influence on my cooking.”

(Info in this article is from eater and fine dining lovers and link below for el comercio:

http://elcomercio.pe/gastronomia/1473137/noticia-ferran-adri-y-gaston-acurio-dejan-huella-solidaria-g9-japon

Ferran will bring a very upbeat and exiting experience to Barcelona also it will be very fantastic for all the world to see his new creations of his 2 biggest passions Japan and Peru.

I really cant wait 🙂

Nikkei cuisine is no stranger to Barcelona, and while the world awaits the new restaurant of Ferran and you want to try some Nikkei in Barcelona right now you can go here:

Komomoto, a decidedly hip, casual restaurant; nestled in Barcelona’s trendy El Born district.

Sleek, architectural interiors are given a stylish informal edge by a wall of hipster photographs and illustrations, industrial dangling lightbulbs and Ingo Maurer‘s post-it note chandeliers. The food too follows this line of slick modernity fused with offbeat cool with ceviches,  sushi – the wild salmon with chipotle sauce maki rolls etc – and lick-lipping noodles all impressing. Stylish, innovative and ideally located for some serious bar-hopping.

Dont forget to go to Tickets and 41 degrees, they are not Nikkei but really fantastic!!!

I had an amazing evening and Albert had some japanese fusion dishes that day which vere really fabulous. If you’re going to Barcelona book…it’s a must!!!!!

BOOK IN ADVANCE!!!!!

I love Tickets

I will write a separate article of TICKETS soon……

Laurent Grant…..L2o

Laurent Gras (born May 3, 1965 in Antibes, France) is a French-born chef currently living and working in the United States.

Gras’ career began in his native France where he worked at several top Michelin-rated establishments, including: Lucas Carton, where he was chef de partie under Alain Senderens; Restaurant Guy Savoy, where he was chef de cuisine; Hotel de Paris Monaco, where he was chef de cuisine under Alain Ducasse; and Restaurant Alain Ducasse Paris, where he was the opening chef de cuisine.

Gras’ American debut was in 1997 at Peacock Alley in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where, as Executive Chef, he received a three star review from Ruth Reichl of the New York Times.[1] He spent four successful years there before moving to San Francisco, where he was named the Executive Chef of the Fifth Floor. His work at the Fifth Floor was received with critical accolades including San Francisco Magazine’s Chef of the Year and Best New Restaurant 2002, Food & Wine Magazine’s Best New Chef 2002,[2] and he was featured on the cover of Gourmet Magazine in 2003.[3]

Gras opened his first restaurant in Chicago, L2O, in May 2008. In March 2009, L2O was nominated for a James_Beard_Foundation award for “Best New Restaurant” and named to GAYOT.com’s list of the Top 40 Restaurants in the U.S. in 2010 and 3 michelin stars.

Laurent Grant is a very wonderful Chef and I love how he created L2o. I love his way of working, his appreciation of Kyoto Japan and his gift of reinterpreting this kind of experience in his own way.

Really he did an amazing job. As a chef who is not japanese he did this cuisine proud and deservingly achieved 3 michelin stars.

He created the L2o blog that I was passionately following. This blog was the best chef blog and you was able to follow every single step of the creation of L2o as it was taking shape through this blog. Especially the dish creations.

Unfortunately to soon after the 3rd star was awarded a shock announcement was made that Laurent Gras was going to depart.

I dont know exactly what happened between him and the Richard Melman  owner of L2o however, it may have been that the owner suddenly wanted to implement changes that would have fundamentally changed the essence and work that Laurent had established.

This is what I heard through the grapevine however this story is to familiar to me.

Here is what I found on the net:

“In November 2010, Gras left L2O. In the same month, the newly published Michelin Guide for Chicago gave the restaurant three stars, its top rating. Gras’ departure seemed to many an overnight decision, but he and the owner of acclaimed Chicago restaurant L20, Richard Melman have had disagreements. “I love L2O and am very proud of everything we achieved there. But (owner) Rich Melman and I have always had different points of view on L2O. In July, we talked about changes he wanted to make, and for me, these changes would alter the character of L2O and ultimately make it a different experience. I let him know then that I would be leaving. “

The owner started claiming Laurent Grant to be unreasonable but I dont believe this to be so personally.

I dont believe that if a chef is left to continue his work that he randomly becomes unreasonable.

At first backers/owners dont know what the restaurant will be at all and the more it manifests before there eyes and the successes starts taking shape people start thinking  things and wanting to make decisions that end up destroying the very hart of what the restaurant is.

Ego is like a poison a very big disturbance.

This is always such a shame. You work so hard to create something so unique with so much passion. It is fully your work with the help of many incredible talented people that were handpicked for this job understanding the peoples potentials and what they can bring to this project, however because we chefs usually dont have any money invested in the business we only create, we have not that much say. The backers always can create changes that are really hard to tolerate at times.

Shortly after Laurent Grants departure the restaurant L2o lost 2 stars:

“L20, which lost its famed chef, Laurent Gras, the day after earning its third Michelin star last year, was demoted to one star.” (from another blog)

I really understand this and feel compassion to the chefs. I am not saying Chefs are always right, I can only talk about things that I have experienced in that kind of situation myself and how hard it is.

This kind of talent and Passion being able to  achieve such a beautiful restaurant to such a level is a masterpiece and best left in the hands of the one who loves it and who created it in the first place.

In spain it is so wonderful as most of the chefs are the new generation to take over the parents restaurant and fully are able to do there work without anyone interfering with full support of the family.

El Bulli was not a family story like Joan Roca for example however over the years the entire team in El Bulli fully were able to go to the most incredible and unthinkable possibility of Ferran Adria’s  imagination without a flinch and it all has brought everyone only good.

Business and pure passion is a hard one and I have rarely seen peace with that short of arrangement if it is not based on a fare balance that serves both sides involved.  There has to be a full trust and the battle of the wills must be really clearly eliminated.

I wish that Chefs that are so unique that have great vision and the ability to create something special would be more valued in a business partnership. Here in the UK you would get a small percentage and a good salary in some cases not even such a great salary for creating everything and owning nothing at the end.

You may even get exploited as you are a young and talented chef driven with passion wanting to make your mark on the world.

You would work day and night so intensely especially the first 3 years almost sleeping in the restaurant and then after you get awards, michelin star  etc ….you can be with only your achievements and no money in the bank and incredibly drained.

I am not sure how it works in the USA it may be better for Chef Patrons?

Now L2o is in my humble opinion lost its beautiful soul.

Anyway, Laurent Grant remains a hero to me and many chefs around the globe and I to this day remember every single page of his blog.

He mentioned on one of his blogs the association between fashion and a dish and truly his interpretation was really beautiful. His interest in photography leeds him to finding inspiration for his dishes in many different ways that are truly wonderful.

Unfortunately I could never make it on time to visit L2o and just before he made a shock announcement that he was leaving me and my pastry chef were just looking into how we could go there and even work for him or do a stage.

I found the pictures:

This is a sample of the aesthetic and excellence of Laurent Grant drawing inspiration from John Galliano for Christian Dior runway show 2009. This is a sample of the excellent blog that Laurent was cultivating for L2o at the time :

“If John Galliano gives the tone for spring 2009, color will make winter fade pretty quickly. And we need it here in Chicago. In fashion and art there is always an artist who gives the tone and inspiration for the season. I truly think it affects others working with creativity in other fields. Perfume and fragrance are also very related to the moment and change over the years. Food also, it follows a trend. In the picture below from Galliano’s spring collection, I feel a playful extravagance, the harlequin brings simple and tone of elegance.”

“For me, these pictures represent a moment that has already flown away. As soon as these pieces have been created they are replaced by others for the next season. It is speed to change that a kitchen can follow, but only to the extend that classic food remains the backbone to support the extravagance of the moment. Pierre Gagnaire, an immensely talented chef, said “I hope my customers forgive me for all the mistakes I have made sometimes preparing food.” I like this idea that he is humble to his both his customers and his inspiration at the same time. It is a balance to find between the emotion and the passion of changing food with the right judgment to make it enjoyable and understandable.”  Laurent Grant

His blog was truly a complete pleasure for so many chefs in the industry and we are all exited to hear any news about his new adventures and creative associations.

I can not express fully the multitude of wealth that was coming from his blog. Just briefly it was about ingredients, techniques, step by step composition of the cult dishes he created for L2o, Creative associations, kitchen equipment and much more.

I wish Laurent Grant that all his dreams come true, that he will find the restaurant of his dreams and that he gets every support he deserves.

I recently bought a book “The art of the Restauranteur” and the author mentions that it has been to much attention given to the chefs and not the restauranteurs. I beg to differ and feel that all my favourite restaurants all revolve around the chef work itself. The book is of course interesting and wonderful it is just that point I disagree on firmly. I have mixed feelings about it.

He claims ” Many chefs are extraordinary talented individuals whose food I have great pleasure of eating, a pleasure I hope will continue for many years. But great chefs dont make necessarily great restaurants”

However equally a restauranteur does not necessarily make a great restaurant either.

A great restaurant can come from many different ways of approach. A great chef and an artist in combination with great front of house talent for example, many of my friends created exactly what they want with architects and designers themselves and are incredible.

Chefs that are talented like Laurent Grant need to be fully in the elements of the restaurant without to much interference.

The entire experience flourishes from the hart of the chefs work like a flower. Everything revolves for me around this element.

Personally I can not eat at Alan Yau’s restaurants no matter how beautiful the decor is. I love him for what he creates however there is to many disjointed elements that make the experience lacking in so many way’s.

My favourite restaurant of his would be Princi because it is casual chic and the food is easy and relevant for buzzy soho.

The passion needs to be a thread that is apparent in every single little detail of the entire sequence of events during a course of a meal in order for the restaurant to transcend into an experience forth talking about.

For this of course the chef needs the talent of the front of house management however the talent and uniqueness of the chef is unquestionable the predominant factor for me.

In an ideal world the balance of all elements take there valid position inorder to create the vision to its fullest potential.

I personally think it is better for chefs to have something small but that is yours and you do the best you can without having any problems with partners and owners apart from minor things. Just work at it as best as you can. Nowadays a michelin chef can be in any kind of restaurant it does not have to be a palace costing millions. If your food is good we will all go there no matter  if we have a fancy setting or not. Probably nowadays it may be better to be not so fancy as it is more raw and real as well as relatable.

I understand that the interpretation of a kyoto style restaurant seemingly has to be very unique however there are many ways to present this standard and it can be all generate from the unique people involved rather then from  the quality of the furnishings.

Mugariz is a very good example of what I am trying to say. I dont mean to say it was cheap to set this up, Mugaritz is extremely refined and creatively stimulating on a really high level however it is not because they have extravagant settings. We can learn from the way they are to adjust something that fits to our budget and make it work.

I will always appreciate Laurent Grant and will keep looking out for what he is going to do next.

Laurent Grant recently made a book called My Provence/ available at: http://www.altaeditions.com about $9.99

Dishes inspired from the Cout d’Azure.