Azabu Kadowaki - Cooking is a bridge of peace to connect people around the world
I want to make people around the world happy through food
Toshiya Kadowaki was born in Hokkaido in 1960. He joined the management department of Koshi, a highclass Japanese restaurant in Roppongi. There, he found his talent as a chef and started training. At Tsukiji Uemura, he honed his skills under Fukuichiro Motegi and became the chef of the Nishinippori store at the age of 27. After studying at the famous stores Kamogawa and Kaiyantei, he opened Azabu Kadowaki at the age of 40. It has been awarded two Michelin stars for more than 10 years and received three stars in 2020.
First of all, please tell us how you became a chef.
My family business was a sushi restaurant, so I was sent to Roppongi to study business administration for about three years. However, the chef who interviewed me said, “If you will return to Sapporo and take over the restaurant, please try to help at the restaurant for three months first", and I decided to work in the kitchen. And on the day when my time in the kitchen was over, the head chef told me, “I believe there is nothing wrong with my judgment , I would say you are a very talented person, nearly one in 10,000. Why don't you try working here for a year?" By contrast the accounting office turned out to be a dark environment. I thought that the kitchen would be more fun, and that is the reason I became a chef.
The chef has foresight. How have you maintained your passion for cooking for so many years?
The main reason is that customers are happy. This profession is different from other professions as the moment you achieve your own results you will immediately get feedback like "delicious" and "like". I enjoy it so much that this is what motivates me.
In what specific situations do you feel fun and happiness?
It takes about two hours to finish eating a meal. Once a couple who seemed to be in a bad mood when they arrived after a fight gradually became more peaceful as they continued to eat. After the meal they held hands. Seeing that, I thought that being a chef is a great profession because I could make people happy and I could be happy too. Delicious food also softens terrible moods.
What made you decide to open a restaurant yourself?
Before taking the decision, I worked as a chef at some listed companies for about 6 years. When I turned 40, I seriously wondered if I should continue to work as an employee. I thought this was my last chance to become independent, so I borrowed money and opened my own restaurant.
It was hard at the beginning...
It was hard because there were no customers. When the restaurant opened, I tried to make the customer feel they want to come back again. This is just the 20th year.
Congratulations! Have you learned anything while running the restaurant?
The first five years were for putting this restaurant on track, skills will continue to improve until the tenth year, and then you need to learn how to develop good human resources and differentiate them from other restaurants over the following ten years. Also, I'm sure I wouldn't know as much if I was only in the kitchen, but by working at the counter I had the opportunity to hear the stories of many knowledgeable customers, which goes beyond the framework of a chef. It was an opportunity for me to grow.
Last year, the Michelin rating went up from two stars to three stars, As represented by "Truffle rice", dishes that incorporate highquality ingredients such as foie gras and shark fin into Japanese food are highly valued. What made you start making such dishes?
In the fall, when I served matsutake mushroom rice one day, a regular customer said, "I ate a lot of matsutake mushroom rice at other restaurants, so I want to eat something different." I happened to have a truffle at hand, and when I improvised it impressed the regular customers. The feedback from other regular customers was also positive, so "truffle rice" was born. This was also an idea that came about because I was working at the counter and was able to interact with customers.
The atmosphere and service of the restaurant are as important as food, but are there any unique ideas?
First of all, when we make a reservation, we ask "Is it an anniversary? Is it a special occasion?" And we provide hospitality that is appropriate for the event. We try to provide what our customers are looking for, and to make sure that we provide what can’t be found anywhere else.
What do you think about the recent decrease in the number of young Japanese people who want to become chefs?
In France, three-star chefs are as respected as film directors. However, in Japan, as a craftsman, the image of "hard" precedes the evaluation of "wonderful". If the country and the media convey the message that being a Japanese chef is "wonderful," then more young people will be interested in pursuing that as a career.
Message to our readers.
As with sports, I think that cooking has the power to become a bridge of peace that connects various people with each other. I wish I could communicate with people through cooking and make people around the world happy through cooking.
Mr. Kadowaki says that there are conflicts and conflicts all over the world, but there is peace in the world of food. Cooking connects people around the world and functions as a bridge for global cultural exchange.