A Quick Sit Down with Chef Masami Okamoto
With over 28 years of experience, people would think that there is nothing else to learn in the art of cooking, but even as a master, everyday is a teachable moment. Chef Masami Okamoto from The Japanese @ Sari Pacific Jakarta graciously sat down with one of our editors and talked about the changes he experienced in his career, what inspires him every day, and what does he do on his down time to unwind.
How has the world of sushi changed since you’ve been in the industry?
I was born and grow up in Hokkaido Japan during my career as Japanese Chef; the authentic sushi is only serving with only soyu sauce and wasabi without any additional sauces such as mayonnaise, or chilli sauce. But recently I see that there is a fusion sushi that coming with mayonnaise or chilli sauce. But I think many Japanese Restaurant provide the fusion sushi due to high demand they need to make sushi that suits with Indonesian people which typically love flavorous sushi. Which different to Japanese, it is proved that when you travel to Japan you won’t see any restaurant that sell sushi with mayonnaise or any other dip sauce.
What makes sushi so special as a Japanese dish? How does the serving, ingredients and style all harmoniously connect with each other?
Sushi has become a signature and symbol of Japanese food especially in Indonesia. For me its simplicity that consists of fresh ingredients make sushi a great choice both for lunch or dinner. A good sushi must be come from fresh fish, sliced preciously, and served with a nice presentation. A good sushi is coming from fresh ingredient, sliced precisely and served beautifully
It’s almost well known that being a Japanese chef takes a long time compared to other cuisines, why do you think that is?
I don’t think so. I think every chef has their own challenges and steps that has to be completed to be a professional chef. I have started my career as Japanese chef since 18. I started from my hometown Hokkaido then I travel the world to Germany, France, England, Singapore, Shanghai, Bangkok to develop my skill as a Japanese Chef.
With such an extensive background in food, what is one moment in your career where you felt the most challenged?
The hardest part of being a chef is how we could serve a dish with the same taste that keeps our guest coming back for more No matter where I work for.
What has been your favourite dish to make since the beginning of your career? What dish was the hardest to perfect?
Kaiseki course! It is a complete course from the appetizer to the dessert. It is a high class menu in Japan. Every dish has its own difficulties but in general every chef has to make sure the Quality freshness of the ingredients is good. In other hand the technique that we use to slice, to cook of a dish is also very important to make a perfect dish. As a Japanese motto that we are eats through the mouth and eyes so that every dish has to be beautiful yet delicious.
What does a normal day look like for a Japanese chef in a well-known restaurant?
Well it is always busy here in The Japanese @ Sari Pacific Jakarta as we open every day for lunch and dinner. Another thing I have to maintain the quality of the ingredients, give a right direction to the team and sometimes I come table to table just to greet the guest and listen to their feedback of restaurant services.
How do you unwind and relax when you are not working?
I do enjoy my time take a walk with my dog. We used to go around the park while enjoying street food with my wife. I also love to have a culinary journey from the 5 stars restaurant to the street food. By the way I do really like satay Madura.
Is there anyone in the world you look up to or would like to work with in the future?
I used to be inspired by Nature rather than by a person. I love the way that nature produces fresh vegetable and high quality meats it gives me a lot of imaginations to create a new cuisine. One day I dream about cooking using all the ingredients from my own garden.