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Portrait - Chef Seiji Yamamoto of Nihonryori RyuGin

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1. Tesi: Dear Chef Seiji Yamamoto, you are just awarded as a Top 10 chef worldwide from the French magazine "Le Chef". Can you please tell me more about you and your love for cooking food and being a chef?

Chef Seiji Yamamoto: From an elementary school age of 11 and as part of my school education, I participated in cooking lesson. Those lessons were a lot of fun. When at home I prepared the dishes I was taught in each lesson and invited my mother to eat my creation. My mother really loved these dishes very much. At that time, I had a taste of what it meant to prepare a dish and I was pleased by the responses of those who tasted my creations. It is then, that I decided I would become a chef in the future. This is the main reason why I decided to become a chef: chefs make people happy .... I embraced that very feeling at the early age of 11.

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2. Tesi: Some chefs discover their love for food and their gift for preparing outstanding dishes quite late, while for others it is clear in their childhood years that they will become a chef. When did you discover your ability to prepare food that is far beyond the norm?

Chef Seiji Yamamoto: Since deciding to become a chef at the age of 11, I was no longer interested in other occupations. At age 11, after completing compulsory education in Japan, I did not go to high school. I started going out into the world and walk in the footsteps of chefs. Although I worked in numerous venues, my academic background was rather shallow, so I experienced hardship as an employee in restaurants. I felt I had to learn proper skills and knowledge, so I enrolled in a cookery vocational school at the age of 19.

After graduation I decided to truly immerse in Japanese cuisine and decided to volunteer to work under the wings of famous chef even when the wages on offer were very low, I worked hard and dedicated for 17 hours a day. At 33 years old I became independent by financing myself as an owner chef. It is then, Yongling Japanese cuisine was born. A year later, I participated in the Spanish Culinary Society as a representative of Japan. Here we experienced world standards and have since then taken various initiatives to raise awareness of our cuisine to the world. The results are showing now.

Japanese Version:

11歳の時に料理人になると決めてからは、それ以外の職業には興味がなくなった。日本における義務教育終了後(15歳)高校に進学せず、社会に出て料理人の道を歩み始めた。数々の店で働いたが学歴が浅い為、就職先のレストランで多くの苦労を味わった。そして、ちゃんとした技術と知識を学ばなくてはならないと考え、19歳で調理師専門学校に入学した。卒業後は日本料理一筋に生きることを決め、給料が安くとも有名なシェフの下で働くことを志願し、1日17時間働いて必死に技術を磨いてきた。33歳で独立。100%資金調達を自分で行い、オーナーシェフとして独立。日本料理 龍吟が誕生した。1年後、スペインの料理学会に日本代表として出場。そこで世界のレベルを目の当たりにし、自分の意識を世界レベルに高めるべく、様々な取り組みを行ってきた。その結果が今の自分を作っている。

3. Tesi: What is your favourite dish and why?

Chef Seiji Yamamoto: I like fish and I love Japanese rice. The simple dish called 'sushi' satisfies gourmet guests all over the world. It is a combination of Japanese rice, vinegar made with a unique Japanese fermentation process, and high quality fish. If you truly have wonderful quality ingredients and reliable knowhow, you are able to prepare a dish with a very simple recipe, which makes the world want to eat it .... This is why I love sushi.

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4. Tesi: Japanese food is...
(Please complete the sentence)

Chef Seiji Yamamoto: Japanese cuisine allows you to explore the richness of Japan's natural environment while taking advantage of seasonal ingredients on offer in spring, summer, autumn, and winter. These ingredients are then added using traditional methods from Japan's history, tradition, and culture; all contributing to the development of Japan's cuisine. This allows us to express the splendour of Japan though its dishes and conveys the spirit of its culture to the world.

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5. Tesi: What does good food mean to you?

Chef Seiji Yamamoto: Tasty cuisine is not intended to satisfy only hunger. Time, colour, and space are intended to meet a variety of sensations. Good food meets many needs and expressions such as newness, surprise, impression, seasonal feeling, nostalgia, richness of the natural environment, appreciation for materials, and develops a link to happiness as the experiences are memorised.

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Thank you
Matthias Tesi Baur

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