Yes, Chef! Nobu Matsuhisa on Masterminding a Global Culinary Icon
November 21, 2023
A global culinary icon that is as widely celebrated as its namesake, Nobu marked a much-anticipated return to Hong Kong this November, reopening its doors to great fanfare at the glitzy Regent Hong Kong following three long years on hiatus.
At the helm of this culinary empire is Nobu Matsuhisa, celebrity chef, sushi master, and widely known as the “culinary world’s Madonna.” Chef Nobu, who grew up in Saitama, Japan, is known for his unique fusion of Japanese cuisine with Peruvian flavours, giving birth to the eponymous “Nobu-style” dining. At present, the Nobu brand is in more than 50 locations across five continents, reinforcing the chef’s reputation as an icon whose cooking has captivated even the world’s discerning palates.
The Beat Asia caught up with Chef Nobu to talk about his culinary influences, the relaunched Nobu brand in Hong Kong, and his secret to maintaining the same high quality across all his restaurants around the world.
Who or what influenced you to cook and become a chef?
My father passed away when I was young, so my brothers and I were raised by my mother and my grandmother. These two women are the most influential in my career. My bedroom was close to the kitchen so I would wake up to the sounds of them preparing breakfast and the smell of miso soup in the morning. I developed my work ethic and passion for cooking through them.
What changes or exciting additions can we expect from the refreshed Nobu Hong Kong? Are there any dishes that are exclusive to Hong Kong?
Our chefs will start by executing our signature dishes, while developing an understanding of the Nobu vision and philosophy. We will then start to incorporate local ingredients and flavours in order to compose dishes unique to the Hong Kong experience.
How would you define “Nobu-style” dining?
We like to serve our dishes family style, for everyone at the table to share and enjoy. The best way to experience Nobu is to let our team take care of you, and create a menu based on your tastes and preferences.
With dozens of restaurants dotted across the globe, how do you make sure the quality at Nobu restaurants remains consistent?
Nobu is not just me — it’s also my team. I have a really strong team who I have spent years working with and educating personally. They go out and teach everyone my philosophy for good food and good service, so we are all working towards the same goal. I also spend most of the year traveling to visit my teams and I am constantly reinforcing my lessons. We are very hands-on and because of that our quality never drops.
You are responsible for reshaping sushi into a global phenomenon. What separates good sushi from great sushi?
I think the key to great sushi is to always use the freshest fish and the highest quality ingredients.
What’s the secret behind your success?
Our expansion into hotels has played a major part in the brand staying relevant. It has allowed us to open in some of the most amazing cities around the world. Another reason is our Nobu teams around the globe. We promote from within. Dishwashers, bussers, waiters, prep cooks become Executive Chefs and Managers. Just like a family, it grows. This kind of teamwork is vital to our success.
What is your advice to aspiring chefs?
Always do your best. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and remember to learn from them. Think from your guests’ point of view, and never lose passion for what you do.
Do you have any favourite ingredients?
I love cooking with soy sauce, good quality rice and fresh fish and vegetables.
What’s in the pipeline for the Nobu brand?
Our brand expansion will continue with new restaurants and hotel openings in Toronto, Bangkok, Rome, and many more over the next two to three years.
Thank you, chef Nobu!
Enjoyed this article? Check out our previous Yes, Chef! profiles here.
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