Name: Yusuke Morita
Chef Yusuke is originally from Japan. He started his career in 1987 when he was 19, and moved to Sydney in 1995. He has been living in Sydney ever since.
Washoku Lovers met him at Kisuke, where he’s working as a traditional Japanese Chef.
WL: Were you a chef in Japan?
Chef Yusuke: Yes I was, I started as a chef in Tokyo though I’m originally from an island called Shikoku. It’s in the South-West of Japan, and the closest major city is Osaka.
WL: Where did you train to cook “Washoku”?
Chef Yusuke: I first started as an apprentice back in Japan, and then moved to Netherlands. Afterwards, I came back to Tokyo just to find myself moving to Europe again. I lived in London for three years, went back to Tokyo, and moved to Australia. I was really keen to learn traditional Japanese food culture and that’s how I started to train as a Washoku Chef.
WL: So… what convinced you to learn “Washoku”?
Chef Yusuke: One thing you should know is that Washoku is highly sensitive, it’s not like other countries’ food. We only mainly use Dashi, soy sauce, mirin (sweet sake), normal sake, salt, and miso. Sometimes, we use sato, but the absolute base is Dashi and soy sauce. I like the fact that these base ingredients can be combined into so many different ways. That’s what I think, is interesting.
WL: How did you become a chef?
Chef Yusuke: What’s hard about cooking Japanese food here in Australia is the lack of seasons. Back in Japan, we have four seasons and they’re clearly defined: Spring, summer, autumn and winter. On top of that for each season, we also have celebrations inbetween: Osechi for January, Setsubun for February and Hina Matsuri for March… So normally for each month, we have a changing menu as the fruits, vegetables, fish and meats change. These little things set the whole Washoku experience to a new level, and to me the details make a difference. Which is why I wanted to become a chef.
WL: What do you think about cooking Washoku out of Japan?
Chef Yusuke: It is very very hard, especially when you’re in Australia. The hardest thing when you live in Australia is having “authentic” ingredients, ingredients you’re used to have back home. Other chefs that are working overseas excluding Japan do not face quarantine restrictions like we do. Chef in NY get to use fresh vegetables and fish from Japan. In Japan, we have different fish and vegetable that change according to the seasons, but here in Australia, the types of fish are always the same throughout the year, and there’s little change in vegetables and fruits. In Japan, all the vegetables are as you expect them to be: same weight, same color, same size, and they’re super easy to use. In contrast, Australian vegetables come in all sizes and shapes, and finding some that are of good quality is not always easy.
WL: Do you have a “Washoku signature dish” or a “favourite Washoku dish” you enjoy cooking?
Chef Yusuke: Not really, I like steamed vegetables, cooking food, sashimi and sushi…
WL: What do you think about mixing Washoku with other food cultures?
Chef Yusuke: Some people can do fusion food, modern-style food, but I personally don’t enjoy doing it. If my clients are asking me to add a twist to some dishes, well I do as they ask. I have a client who has organises wine degustation meet-ups and he comes 2 to 3 times a year. He asks me to cook Washoku, but wants some French food too. I like traditional food to be honest, so that’s probably why I would need some training to cook fusion food.
WL: Is there a chef that you most admire?
Chef Yusuke: I don’t necessarily admire the chef himself, it’s the person that I admire. I owe lot to Mr Kato, who 15 years ago was my master. He was a very funny chef, a great traditional Japanese Chef. I also admire Mr Saotome, who’s now in HK and used to be my sushi master. When he knew I was going to Australia, he said I had to learn sushi making skills because Australians enjoy eating sushi. There’s also Mr Ura, who taught me so many things…
There are so many people that I admire! The list is long.
WL: Do you have any suggestion to Washoku Lovers when they eat Washoku?
Chef Yusuke: I think that the key to eating good Washoku is to enjoy the food. Also try to be more adventurous! We always tend to stick to the same things, and I also have this issue. When I go to a Chinese restaurant, I always tend to order the same thing… I think it would be nice to try something different.
WL: Well we’ve been to an Omakase restaurant (Chef’s selection) recently, is this something you would offer?
Chef Yusuke: I actually do offer Omakase! It’s not on the menu though, but if you ask me to make something for you, I can put 6 to 7 dishes together from $60. You can choose to pay more and have more dishes though, depends on how big your appetite is.
WL: Do you have any advice for someone wanting to become a Washoku Chef?
Chef Yusuke: In order to become a Washoku Chef, you have to always make efforts, make the best you can. I also think that opening your mind so you have a broad vision is essential.