A few months after the passing of the chef, Kyoaji closed permanently. My only opportunity to revisit Kyoaji is through the books written by Nishi Kenichiro. Below are some of the things I learned from those books.
Nishi-san’s father didn’t want to make a book about his cooking. He thought that if he teaches it, the people will not study on their own. There was an atmosphere that he did not even want to teach Nishi-san. It was learning by looking, there was no teaching. Or, maybe, special things need to be taught only to one person.
Nishi-san bought so many cooking books that he couldn’t keep all of them at his house. Nishi-san writes: When I get stuck at cooking, I will be frustrated. I will try to read some books, I will get a new idea, and I will be able to calm down then.
Nishi-san writes: My honest thought is that cooking is a lifetime study. There is no goal, no end. A chef has to study for his entire life. There is not one answer. We can find the answer when we die, is something my father often said.
Describing one of his books, Nishi-san writes: Making the book about boiled food is very difficult. I cannot explain in a word “the taste is like this”. I was often told by my father “You are stupid. Taste is heart. It is not easy to teach people the taste.”
Looking at the book, only the shape can be imitated perfectly. The personality of the food is not easy to imitate. At the beginning, it is acceptable to imitate. But look at the book and make an effort to keep studying. There are various artists whose early works are similar to their teacher’s at the beginning. But, it becomes the foundation and they try to do their own thing and become creative. I wish cooking is the same.
I am most relaxed when I am at the restaurant. I am not relaxed when I am outside the restaurant. I didn’t close because of illness since the restaurant opened. Sickness or illness is healed while I am working. There is a Japanese proverb that says “Stupid people don’t get a cold”.
In my restaurant, there are other chefs who have been there over 10 years, so even if I am not at the restaurant, there will be no mistakes. I know they are doing well, but I am worried if I am not there. I want to greet each customer, and I will not serve something unless I try it once.
I was lucky for everything. When I was about 30 years old, I came from Kyoto to Tokyo and I opened the restaurant with my wife from Tokyo. Her parents had a store and were willing to lend it to me. I received from someone of the Urasenke tea school the name “Kyoaji”. This name is valuable property. I have to serve tasty food which lives up to the name. I worked hard to make the restaurant wonderful so that it didn’t spoil the name.
The reason why I could work in Tokyo, where I didn’t know anyone, is because I was helped by many people. My father was a master chef, my wife’s parents lent me the store, and I was blessed with a good spouse. I was told by many customers “You are a lucky person”, but I really do think so.
Every day, I repeat normal things patiently and properly.
Chefs must have a competitive spirit. When I was a young chef, I thought “I will not be defeated by the other chefs”.
I want to study to make the restaurant better, so that the customers enjoy it more. Recently, I feel more and more that cooking is limitless, endless, and very deep. No matter how I try to master cooking, I cannot. Because of this, I like this job.
The only true voyage of discovery would be not to visit strange lands, but to possess other eyes.
Matsukawa (revisited), Learning Japanese, Advanced Japanese Manners, Hakone, home cooking.
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Cafe de l'Ambre
Sushi Sho Masa
Bear Pond Espresso
Park Hotel Tokyo
New Year in Kyoto
Quotes from Chefs
Quotes from Farmers
Quote from Zen monks
Kwon Sook Soo
Yau Yuen Siu Tsui
Art Museums in Tokyo