Japan’s food artisans: in pursuit of perfection
The secret to Japanese food is specialising in one thing and doing it perfectly. Forever. In an excerpt from his new volume Rice, Noodle, Fish, Matt Goulding profiles four masters of their trade
There are a dozen factors that make Japanese food so special ingredient obsession, technological precision, thousands of years of meticulous refinement but chief among them is one simple conception: specialisation. In the west, where miso-braised short ribs share menus with white truffle pizza and sea bass ceviche, restaurants cast massive nets to try to catch as many fish as possible but, in Japan, the secret to success is selecting one thing and doing it truly fucking well. Forever.
The concept of shokunin , an artisan profoundly and singularly dedicated to their craft, is at the core of Japanese culture. Japans most famous shokunin these days is Jiro Ono, immortalised in the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, but you will encounter his level of relentless focus across the entire food industry. Behind closed doors. Down dark alleyways. Concealing in every corner of this country. The 80 -year-old tempura man who has spent six decades discovering the subtle changes yielded by temperature and motion. The 12 th-generation unagi sage who utilizes metal skewers like an acupuncturist uses needles, teasing the muscles of wild eel into new territories. The young man who has grown old at his fathers side, measuring his age in kitchen lessons. Any moment now, it will be his turn to be the master and, when he is, hell know exactly what to do.
Japan is the land of a million shokunin, dedicated artisans who bless this country with their quiet quest of perfect. Here are four I encountered during the year I spent researching my book, Rice, Noodle, Fish.
Ichiro Sekiguchi of Caf de lAmbre
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