“When I started my Parisian restaurant, I wasn’t very interested in vegetables. Rather, I wanted to make traditional French dishes, pâtés en croûte, pithiviers, elegant and sophisticated things. Of course, I admired Pascal Barbot and Michel Bras and their fabulous vegetable dishes, but I did not have access to the same products as them. Most of the chefs around me bought their products at Rungis – which seemed to me to be deeply lacking in human relationships, in life. What I was looking for at the time was taste and technique.
I was born in Tokyo, in a family where cooking was not central, although my mother liked to cook and was careful with the products she bought. I liked helping him in the kitchen. When I was 16, I started working at a Korean barbecue. It was not an upscale restaurant, but I learned the basics there, such as chopping vegetables, boning and cleaning meat, preparing fish. When I was 18, I enrolled in a cooking school for a two-year course: the first year, we tackle all the cuisines of the world. The second, we specialize.
Going to France at 23
Obviously, I chose French cuisine. For my internship, I was sent to a Disney hotel, near Tokyo, which had the merit of paying its employees well, which allowed me to go and test a number of French restaurants, then to go to France, to 23 years. This is how I landed in Jurançon, in 2008, and started my French career, at Nicolas Le Bec in Lyon, Georges Blanc in Vonnas, until Pierre Sang in Paris. I co-founded Botanique in 2015.
In 2019, there were two big events in my life: I had my dog Bounty, and I met farmer Hélène Reglain. By observing the first to eat things that we do not eat, I understood that we could make delicious preparations with what we thought was intended for the trash.
The second, an extraordinary market gardener, revealed to me that vegetables take on a whole new taste when they are grown with love and full of life. I then met Erwan Humbert, who also supplies me with incredibly tasty vegetables, and Philippe Guichard, for the extraordinary flours, cereals and legumes. All this is alive, it can be felt on the plate.
During the lockdown, I took the time to visit my producers and think about the meaning I wanted to give to my cooking. I know today that it must be deeply linked to the earth.
Failing to travel, I also wanted to discover other cuisines of the world, I made virtual four-hands with various chefs, and I discovered taloas, corn cakes from the Basque Country, with the chef Léa Etchegoyhen. There, it is eaten mainly with cheese and cold meats, but it is also a delicious support for all kinds of vegetable preparations. For me, it’s a sandwich that tells about the garden, the season, and the desires of the moment. “