Restaurant Esquisse, opened in Tokyo’s luxury Ginza district in 2012, presents a unique culinary approach combining traditional Japanese elements with French techniques brought in by its Corsican chef Lionel Beccat. The restaurant serves a constantly changing course menu introducing the guests to the world of Beccat’s culinary creations.
Two-stars Michelin chef Lionel Beccat moved to Japan to work as a chef for Cuisine[s] Michel Troisgros. We spoke to him about his professional success, cooking inspiration and the importance of an artistic outlook on his dishes.
“I want the guests to feel my energy.
I don’t want to tell them what I did,
how or why I did it.
I don’t want to influence them.
I just bring a dish and then it is their dish.”
Birth of Esquisse
Lionel Beccat was born in Corsica, France, in 1976. At the age of 20, he started work as a chef, inspired by the cooking of his grandmother. He moved on to become second chef at the Michelin-star restaurant La Maison Troisgros merely six years later.
In 2006, chef Michel Troisgros decided to open a branch in Tokyo, asking Beccat to come and run the new restaurant. “I did not have a choice. I would have never thought to live in Japan when I was 26 or 27. But I had the opportunity, and I went,” – Beccat recalls.
Six years later, he opened his own restaurant Esquisse, a beautiful haute cuisine restaurant in the heart of Tokyo’s glamorous Ginza districts. At the restaurant, Beccat serves his guests seasonal course menus designed entirely by himself, as he ultimately shares his artistic voice with the guest through his dishes.
For, Beccat, food is very personal. He explains: “I have no right to expect anything [from my guests]. Sometimes, I see chefs struggling to make people enjoy the dish. And I want to tell them to stop.”
“I want to see beauty”
Beccat recalls that his arrival to Japan changed the way he looked at the world. “I had to reopen my eyes and learn to be touched by the beauty I would normally pass by,” – he says. “This is not something you learn. This is something infused in you little by little.”
The chef explains that learning to see beauty is the first step to becoming able to create true art. “You create your art, and to create your art, you have to first create your way of seeing things. Japanese people and this country teach me to see further than I could see before,” – Beccat concludes.
“When I create the menu, I create all the dishes together, not one by one, from the appetizer through the desserts. I have all my ideas together, like a symphony.”
Beccat explains that, to create a successful menu, a chef needs to learn to combine inspiration with brilliant technique. He compares the process to the art of photography which he also practices in his spare time.
“In photography, technique is very important, but technique anyone can do, anyone can learn. But without technique, you cannot make good photography or anything else. If I want to make good food, I need good techniques and a lot of practice,” – he states.
He concludes, saying there are various elements that shape a chef’s signature style: “I trained technically and I trained emotionally. Then everything comes together and starts to make sense.”
A chef, a photographer, a writer
Chef Lionel Beccat has long shown himself a multifaceted creator. He finds photography to be another source of artistic inspiration outside the Esquisse’s kitchen, as well as practices writing.
In late 2021, Beccat released his new book “ESquiSSE no Ryori”, combining his love for cooking, photography, and writing. The culinary book tells the story of Beccat’s inspiration through photographs taken by himself, taking the reader on the journey of his creative growth.
Beccat explains his love for photography, saying it helps him change the way he sees the world. “It makes me feel safe and it makes me feel more in harmony with the world I live in,” – he adds.
Over the years, Lionel Beccat worked together with numerous craftsmen, like perfumer Philippe Di Méo and artist Akito Akagi, to provide his guests with multidimensional sensory experiences. He comments on these collaborations, saying that their value lies in the fact that “different craftsmen or artists do not need to inspire each other, but find a common space where they can invent a new language for things”.
“Of course, I have my favourite painter, my favourite designer, my favourite musician. But I refuse to be an expert because if I see art, I still want to feel new. I want to be empty.”
However, when defining his creative path, Beccat says he will “never stop being a chef”. “I’m a chef who does photography. This is the only way I define myself,” – he adds.
Chef Lionel Beccat creative principles:
Learn to see beauty in order to be able to create true art.
Technique and practice are the foundations of artistic creation.
Stay free of judgment and opinions to respond responsive to art.
Seeing beauty is a skill that needs to be practiced daily.
Royal Crystal Ginza Bldg.
5-4-6 Ginza Chuo Tokyo Japan 1040061