Mr. Ohashi of the Michelin-starred flagship in Tokyo appointed Chef Yuta Shimizu to hold the reigns of Tirpse in K11 MUSEA, the restaurant’s second outpost. Chef Yuta graduated from the Tsuji Culinary Institute in Osaka then joined renowned Pavillonde la Rotonde in France and Chateau restaurant Joël Robuchon in Tokyo, before joining Tirpse. Following in his father’s footsteps, Chef Yuta masters French cuisine with Japanese fare.
In 2017, Chef Yuta moved to Hong Kong to launch Tirpse. The high-end eatery serves delectable, innovative dishes that rotate with its seasonal menu. We speak to Chef Yuta on his culinary journey and how he integrates French and Japanese cuisine to curate award-winning dishes.
How did you get into food and cooking?
As my father is also a chef, I was greatly influenced by him growing up. He opened my eyes and allowed me to get in touch with all different kinds of food and cooking since I was very little. It allowed me to explore the culinary world a step earlier than usual!
What training did you do to become a chef?
Following my father’s footsteps of accenting French cuisine with Eastern concepts back home in Tokyo, I was trained since young with the basic cooking skills to help my father in our family restaurant. I later graduated from the Tsuji Culinary Institute in Osaka and was guided by renowned French chefs at the Pavillonde la Rotonde during an internship in France. I also spent four precious years at Chateau restaurant Joël Robuchon in Tokyo before joining Tirpse in 2017.
What do you think are the most important attributes for a chef?
The most important attributes as a chef, in my opinion, are: Perseverance, Commitment & Passion. I always enjoy cooking for my customers the way I would cook for my family and friends. I always spend time properly planning and designing the menu. This means sourcing for suitable yet sometimes playful ingredients and preparing the necessary utensils. I believe that every detail plays an important part in creating a good final product.
What is your process for creating a dish?
A key process for me when creating a dish is to select the best suitable ingredients and apply the best technique to showcase the precious fresh produce. I always get inspiration by seeing and touching seasonal ingredients. I then select one core ingredient, design how it would be best treated, followed by the style of cooking. For example, I need to decide whether to cook it with French or Japanese style in order to decide the side ingredients. Finally, I design how I would like to garnish, decorate and plate it.
What are your favourite ingredients to work with?
I am obsessed with spices and herbs. Japanese Citrus, especially Yuzu and Sudachi are my favorites. I also love using Hyuganatsu (日向夏) (Citrus Tamurana) in whole with the peel during the summer season. This citrus has got an irresistible and amazing aroma.
What do you consider to be the standout moments of your career?
So far, being given the opportunity to helm the Tirpse kitchen in Hong Kong is the most standout moment for my career. I am blessed to be given the trust and opportunity by Mr. Ohashi to further develop my own dishes, to strengthen and explore more cooking techniques and of course to lead a young and energetic kitchen team here.
How do you integrate French techniques with Japanese ingredients at Tirpse?
During my process of menu design, I usually integrate French cooking techniques as a base. But as a Japanese, I will instinctively think of the Japanese ways of culinary techniques and ingredients and how I can innovatively create and tweak my dishes into a ‘modern Japanese French interpretation’. For instance, when making fish broth (Sakana Dashi) in French cooking, they always go for white wine but, I would change to sake instead. As another example, I use Konpu Dashi instead of chicken broth for my cooking. I guess the natural Japanese blood in me best describes how I creatively integrate French techniques that I acquired through training with the finest Japanese produce.
Do you think Japanese cuisine requires a particular set of skills that are different from those required for other cuisines?
Japanese food is often referred to as ‘the art of less is more’. The concept is how they can eliminate unnecessary steps and sublimate the main ingredients. I think this is the uniqueness of Japanese cuisine. Another interesting fact to share is the selection and use of the knife. Japanese chefs believe that the sharpness of a knife can change the taste and the final presentation of their dishes. I think Japanese craftsmen are the best in the world for kitchen knives.
How do you balance traditional Japanese-French cuisine with modern tastes?
I always keep myself updated with events in town and make it a habit to see Tirpse from a third party perspective. For one, I love to go out and visit different restaurants in town referred by customers or other chefs whenever I have a day off. I always like to know what other great chefs are doing. I like to see what ingredients they are using and how they are delivering their cuisine. Creating new menus with other chefs, exchanging ideas and listening to their advice also help giving me insights. Lastly, I like to challenge myself all the time!
You previously lived and worked in Japan before moving to Hong Kong. What’s something new you’ve learned during your time in Hong Kong as a chef?
Living in a vibrant city with multicultural people and nationalities is something that I’ve really enjoyed in Hong Kong alongside its food offerings. Locals in general have great acceptance to new and mixed culture. They live harmoniously with respect. I am always excited to eat all these great foods in Hong Kong and it reminds me that my cooking can be borderless and carefree!
What do you want diners to take away from their experience at Tirpse?
We want our customers to feel happy and content most importantly after dining at Tirpse. We want our customers to experience and discover a journey through flavors and the best of seasonal bounty. Nonetheless, we would also want to bring a sense of positive optimism and anticipation in challenging times like this.
What’s next at Tirpse?
We are borderless! Personally, I would love to explore more Asian and local ingredients. This can enable me to create more unique dishes for Tirpse. We hope to create memorable dining experiences for all our customers.
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