Japanese-born Australian chef Tetsuya Wakuda has always loved food, so much that he left his hometown of Hamamatsu, Japan at the age of 22 and moved to Sydney to work as a kitchen assistant at established restaurant, Fishwives. Here, he developed a passion for cooking, and he went on to train under the late chef and restaurateur Tony Bilson (dubbed Grandfather of Australian cuisine) at Kinselas, where he mastered French culinary techniques using the best seasonal produce. This became his culinary philosophy when he opened modern Japanese restaurant Tetsuya's in 1989, one of Australia's best and most awarded restaurants until today, and Waku Ghin at Marina Bay Sands in 2010.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic grounded the whole world, Wakuda admitted that one of the best things about being a chef was being able to travel to different countries to learn more about their different food cultures and flavours. While he considers Singapore home at the moment due to travel restrictions, his permanent base is in Sydney where he continues to run Tetsuya's. But he considers himself lucky as his profession allowed him to visit Japan as often as he could, and that only meant discovering more culinary gems worth going back for.
Here are his must-visit dining places in Australia and Japan.
What do you miss most in terms of food and drink when you are away from Australia and Japan, or haven’t been back for a while?
Tetsuya Wakuda (TW) The beauty of Japanese cuisine lies in its simplicity. Rice cooked à la minute, paired simply with fresh ingredients and homemade pickles—this is what I miss most. It might seem so basic and simple, but the patience and skills refined over decades just to make quality rice are incredible.
In Sydney, it is very common for people to go on boat rides and fishing trips. I enjoy heading out to sea with my friends, where we will either catch some seafood or visit a fish market. The taste I miss most is freshly barbecued prawns by the harbour or at my friend’s home.
What is the first dish you eat when you return and where do you go for it?
TW When I return to Japan, I usually visit my favourite ryotei (traditional Japanese restaurant), called Kyoto Wakuden. I particularly enjoy the seasonal grilled ayu (sweetfish) during summer.
I have a few favourite restaurants in Australia, and one of them where I always take my friends to is Buon Ricordo, one of the oldest and most popular Italian restaurants in Sydney. The chef is a good friend of mine for over 30 years, and one of the dishes I will always order is the linguine with tomato, basil & garlic—so simple, yet so good. Another famous dish at the restaurant is the truffle egg pasta, a must-have if you love truffles.