You know you’re in the presence of someone who is at the height of their respective field when he begins to make sushi and everyone in the restaurant pauses in awe (see video below) as they observe a master in action. Such a scenario may sound larger than life on paper but believe me when I say that this was exactly what happened as I witnessed it. Chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, or more affectionately known as Nobu, is an acclaimed Japanese chef that needs little introduction.
For the past two decades, his eponymous restaurant has caused quite a stir in the proverbial pool that is Japanese cooking, where a majority of chefs often opt to stay true to time honoured traditions and cooking techniques. The ripple he caused is known as “Nobu Style”, a unique culinary language invented by the man himself by building and incorporating Peruvian influences into a strong Japanese food foundation.
During his four-year cooking stint in Peru, Chef Nobu would learn, love and appreciate many aspects of Peruvian cuisine, which would later form an integral part of his signature style. Life soon brought him to work in a small Los Angeles sushi bar, where he was given free reign to experiment with the menu. This would be the defining stage that would eventually lead to the birth of his now famous cuisine.
“I created a cooking style that focused on Japanese cooking with a lot of Peruvian influences. That is Nobu style. It was very unique in the beginning because nobody else made it,” comments the accomplished chef. “It was difficult to introduce Peruvian ingredients into Japanese cooking at first as it was a very strange combination. Through serving customers personally and explaining to them what I was trying to achieve, little by little they began to understand what Nobu food is all about,” he adds.
This year, Nobu’s flagship store in New York turns 21 and has since expanded to every continent and major city around the globe, Kuala Lumpur now included. “Success is not only measured by our food, but also by our great teams. All over the world, if you go to any Nobu restaurant you can be sure that all the key team leaders have Nobu experience, which means that they understand my philosophy, my qualities and how I want the service to be,” says the acclaimed chef.
Cooking with heart is one of the most profound lessons that he has learnt from his mother whilst growing up, which he then translates and incorporates into his culinary creations served in his restaurants. So crucial is this life lesson that every chef who desires to work at one of his restaurants must have that pivotal characteristic: kokoro (heart in Japanese). “Heart is in the details, it is passion. I always advise the younger chefs to take the more difficult way instead of the easier one. I place emphasis on having more steps to get something done as its very important for the final details,” he opines.