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Like many chefs, Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, or Nobu, as he is called, is one of the most celebrated chefs in the world. A global citizen, Nobu grew up in Japan and lived and worked in Peru and Argentina before immigrating to the United States by way of Alaska to forge one of the most recognizable restaurant brands across the globe. Taking influences from each country’s culinary flavors and techniques, Nobu established his signature Japanese Peruvian fusion cuisine.
“Japan is my pillar…my most inspiring country,” reveals Chef Nobu in a Forbes Travel Guide interview. Nobu goes on to say that he comes by his passion for food from his mom because she always prepared her authentic Japanese recipes from scratch using only fresh ingredients and never packaged goods. It was from her that the chef learned that distinctive elements are essential to outstanding cuisine. Chef Nobu travels ten months each year, exploring different countries, cultures, and cuisines to develop new dishes for his global culinary empire of 65 restaurants and 15 luxury boutique hotels. He visits fresh food and fish markets for ideas and likes using local ingredients whenever possible.
Nobu has a keen eye for aesthetics
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Travel + Leisure magazine shares that Chef Nobu developed his keen eye for aesthetics while studying architecture, but the passion he has for food was acquired while apprenticing at a young age as a live-in apprentice to a sushi master. He abandoned his dreams of becoming an architect to pursue a life crafting sushi. Chef Nobu says that when he was young, “sushi was not a common food for most Japanese people. It [was] very exclusive and very special food.” After more than fifty years of working with food, Chef Nobu divulges Travel + Leisure. “You know, my philosophy is [that] cooking [is] always hard,” Nobu said, and the magic ingredients are simple: “A sharp knife and a clean fish,” plus rice and 10 fingers.
Chef Nobu developed his signature 10-finger, 6-step process for making sushi to perfect his cuisine and trained his chefs to recreate their dishes in his exacting methods in each of his restaurants around the globe. He details his process by stating, “I like to separate the people eating my sushi…That’s why [I] always make 10 fingers, always each process like, ‘Okay, make the best one.'” Chef Nobu’s method creates a fluid motion for preparing consistent, pleasing sushi every time. “It looks easy, but trust me, it’s very, very hard,” he said (per Travel & Leisure).
Nobu’s creative process includes cultural immersion
In a Forbes Travel Guide interview, Chef Nobu discloses his lengthy creative process for crafting new menu items. Nobu likes to explore local food and seafood markets for the freshest ingredients he can find and takes inspiration from them as he develops new dishes for his menu. “I go to the seafood market, see what special products they have, look for interesting items, and I bring them to the kitchen.” Once Chef Nobu sources his local ingredients, his creativity goes into high gear as he experiments with the elements and his master technique honed over the decades.
Like an artist looking at a piece of marble and seeing the form within, Chef Nobu extracts the culinary essence from his ingredients, crafting his own version of a work of art. “Then, I try it many different ways. It is a long process. It is never immediate. I will see what I want to try with it that day and try it three, four, five times.” Chef Nobu relies on his guests for the ultimate decision on each new creation. “I put it on the menu, but not everything is a success. People either like or they don’t like it. If 200 people like, and two don’t, it is a success.” He never finishes refining his cuisine. “But even then, I still try to make it better. Creating a menu is like fashion — always trying new styles, visually creating, new flavors. Always creating and designing,” (via Forbes Travel Guide)
Nobu’s cooking pilosophy carries over to service
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According to Travel + Leisure magazine, “Nobu himself says, it’s all about the details and making the guests happy.” Whether he is cooking, creating new dishes, or giving seminars at food and wine festivals, seeing his guests smile during a heavenly experience is his priority — “That’s why I [love] my job. And still, I never changed my philosophies: always, cooking is hard.” Nobu insists, “It’s always cooking with the heart, these are my recipes.” His attention to detail, creative process, and eye for an alluring presentation earned Chef Nobu coveted Michelin stars for his restaurants in San Diego, Beverly Hills, Las Vegas, London, Dubai, Milan, Budapest, Munich, and St. Moritz. This recognition places him firmly in the fine dining sphere.
You instantly recognize the Nobu brand when you walk into a Nobu or Matsuhisa restaurant. Each structure is different, but décor themes and a certain elevated ambiance tell you that you are about to experience an incredible meal. “People come to restaurants not just to eat. It’s a process. You come to a restaurant, it starts with a great host, you sit down, the waiter gives good service…My concept starts with the service. It’s about the service, the food and, of course, the beauty. And we’re always striving for the best. You want the customer to feel the passion you do. This is why passion is so very important for success,” Chef Nobu offers in an interview with Forbes Travel Guide.