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Featured Chef
Andrea Sacchi western chef of the Four Seasons Hotel, Tokyo...

Food and Japan
Seared Scallops with, Wild Mushroom Tartar
Pumpkin Tortelli
Wine With Sushi & Sashimi
Andrea is no stranger to Japan. After leaving his native Italy in the early ninties he spent two seasons in Nagano at the Hotel Grand Phenix, a Japanese, boutique mountain resort designed for the Olympic games. After leaving Nagano he spent the next four years traveling the globe. Experiencing the food and cultures of New Zealand, Singapore, Korea and South Africa. At the end of 2000 through a series of connections Andrea heard of a possible opportunity to return to Japan. In January 2001 he landed the position of Western Chef at The Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo.

Like many of the hotel's expatriates Andrea lives close to the Four Seasons. His journey to work is a simple bike ride rather than squashing on to the Japanese subway system. And although the normal workweek takes the form of six days, Andrea's schedule is pretty flexible "if you are busy you in, if you not busy then you can take time off, the famous unwritten rule."

His kitchen (the Western Kitchen) is a twenty-four hour operation. Producing food for Il Teatro the hotel's Italian styled main dining room, the casual French Bistro and Room Service. The majority of his clientele are Japanese, many of who prefer to eat multi course tasting menus rather than a la carté.

My main question to him - how to deal with the multitude of Japanese customs and levels of Politeness?

"Ha, this is a good one. Japanese are very weary about the formality of things; they will not confront you or directly say an unkind word. In fact the word no does not exist in Japanese, there is a form of negation, which is more polite and less, direct.
This is the second time that I have worked in Japan, I spent a couple of years in Nagano Prefecture in '93 and manage to learn the basics of Japanese customs. I am now able to have very basic conversation with my customers. I have learnt a lot about what I am supposed to say and express and what not. The kitchen is a different story, here is pretty much a group effort in everything you do, everything we do is not a one man decision but has to be agreed on by all the culinary team. In those meetings you have to be careful how you express your ideas and learn fast that when the F&B is telling you that buying those new plate could be difficult, it really means no!"

Lastly, a word of advice for a chef, that wishes to work in Japan?

Japan is an amazing country with a very extended food culture and a set of tradition and custom that need daily attention. It is not an easy country to work in, the language barrier is very strong and Japanese are historically cautious about foreigners. So set in to learn as much of the language as you can, be patient! You are in for daylong meetings and very different points of view. Focus on delivering the best product and be open-minded, put on the side what you know and get set to fit into a different reality. You'll walk away with a great experience… Read on as Andrea explains food and Japan or more precisely food and Tokyo... (more)
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