Hatching fresh sushi

Updated: 2012-05-21 11:18

By Mary Katherine Smith (China Daily)

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Hatching fresh sushi

Tokyo-based chef Kenjiro 'Hatch' Hashid is a believer in culinary storytelling as a way to bring different types of people together.[Photo/China Daily]

Hatching fresh sushi 

Hatching fresh sushi

"What do you want to wear?" Chef 'Hatch' - A man who chats up his food

A top Tokyo chef tells Mary Katherine Smith why he brought his artisan style to Shanghai - and why he talks to his food.

Growing up next to one of the world's largest seafood markets, Tsukiji Market, Kenjiro 'Hatch' Hashid's childhood was always full of fresh fish and opportunities to cook. He was just 4 years old when he started helping in the family kitchen by doing simple tasks of cutting cucumbers and making miso soup.

By 14 he was helping prepare the fish and vegetables at his father's restaurant. It was while working in his father's restaurant and at a young age when Hatch realized that he wanted to be a chef.

"When I started to work with my father, I wanted to be a painter, I didn't want to be a chef," he says. "One day I was helping in the restaurant, and a customer said 'this is delicious!' with a big smile."

The customer's joy was infectious and that was the turning point for the young foodie. "I thought it was a good job and the best job for me. So I decided to become a chef."

After studying at one of Japan's top culinary schools, he spent some time traveling and discovering new countries and cuisines before opening his own sushi restaurant, Hashida Sushi, in the heart of Tsukiji in Tokyo.

Echoing the sense of surprise in the phrase "catch of the day", Hatch's Tokyo restaurant serves up whatever the freshest fish and vegetables happen to be at market that day. There is no menu, just a daily assortment of fresh fish and vegetables begging to be prepared in new ways that Hatch and his regulars always find satisfying.

This creative and exploratory approach has helped him develop a strong reputation in Japan and, now, in neighboring countries.

As the head chef behind The Geisha, a Japanese-inspired restaurant and lounge, opened last autumn in Shanghai's former French concession, Hatch has brought his inventive approach to sushi to China's economic hub.

Hatch's inspiration for the new spring and summer menu, which he recently came to town to launch with cooking demos, was inspired by the fresh outlook that comes with the warmer seasons. "People are starting new lives, new years and new experiences," he says. It's a time for "happiness".

And with new additions, like vegetable terrine and the introduction of dengaku, a sweet soy sauce used with oysters, diners will be able to taste the happiness that Hatch finds in his culinary creations.

Despite being the son of a traditional Japanese chef, Hatch is anything but. He admits that he will even talk to the food before he cooks it, asking "What do you want to wear?"

The playful chef says he hopes that by introducing new and different styles of Japanese food that he will encourage people to visit Japan for the real thing.

"Some people may grow up with the California roll, or roll sushi, and one day they decide they want to try original sushi, so people come to Japan to try the authentic experience," he says.

He's enthusiastic that many well-established Japanese restaurants in cities like Tokyo and Kyoto are expanding to Shanghai - just one way he sees his culture branching out overseas.

"Food is a powerful thing," he says.

"Think about the story it can tell, or the feeling or mood it can create. It can be interpreted in so many different ways and by different types of people. It is for these reasons that I choose to do what I do, (which is) create culinary stories."

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