Name: Toshiya Kai
Country of origin: Japan
Opening a self-titled restaurant is a sure fire way to let everyone know you mean business. At Toshiya, business means washoku! Washoku Lovers went to the Cremorne restaurant to see Chef Toshiya.
Washoku Lovers: How long have you been cooking and how did you come to be working in Australia?
Chef Toshiya: 15 years ago, way back in 2000, I moved here to work. I’ve been cooking for about 22-23 years now. I decided in my third year of elementary school that I wanted to be a chef, and ever since then all of my interests have revolved around food. Wanting to know things, being more aware of what I was eating and how it was all made… it all started at a very young age. How to cook things, who it was being cooked for, I just kept thinking thoughts like this.
WL: Where did you start training as a chef?
Chef Toshiya: In Tokyo I started by learning kaisekiryouri which is the kinds of meals you eat before a tea ceremony. It’s very traditional. Because it was a type of job that was practically 24 hours, I had to think about where to live so I could get to the kitchen ASAP if I needed to. And I practiced cooking untill really late at night. And the food I was cooking was warm, it wasn’t something you could just put in the fridge straight away – you had to wait for it to cool down first, so I could only sleep after that. That was pretty much all of my youth (laughs) I devoted myself to it. All of that training is my base now, those skills I learned back then I still use in my washoku now.
WL: What’s your opinion of mixing washoku with other types of food?
Chef Toshiya: When I was a student the cooking department wasn’t just washoku, we learned all sorts of types of cooking. Bread, hotel food, French food, I even learned about wine in school.
Ever since coming to Australia I’ve even learned about places like Thai fusion restaurants mixed with all sorts of other country’s cusines. With each experience, washoku is mixed with different food genres and there’s Japanese fusion now, the meaning of washoku isn’t the same, it’s new with every new combination and every new chef.
WL: Do you have any interesting stories to tell from your experience as a chef?
Chef Toshiya: At Toshiya, I want my customers to relish in this new kind of fusion. All the flavours I learned from various countries, methods of cooking, I want my food to appeal to the senses. Food is something that’s always evolving, it needs to change in accordance with the integrity of each customer.
One customer, who I happened to meet by chance, was totally the opposite of a regular Japanese person. They told me everything they thought about the food with complete honesty! The food was delicious, the food wasn’t delicious, the food didn’t suit their tastes, saying things like “this is no good!”.
These are the kinds of things I’ve come across in my 15 years of being in a global environment. Every day I come across different people, and I grow because of it.
WL: Is there anything you’d like to say to our Washoku Lovers?
Chef Toshiya: At Toshiya we do sushi, deep fried foods, and grilled foods. There’s not really any soy sauce, so I think this results in a kind of fusion food. I’d really like it if Washoku Lovers would come to my restaurant so I can give them food that will definitely show them some new senses!