Japanese Chef Masayuki Okuda is an icon in the world of Japanese cuisine. A holder of countless awards including the Shizuo Tsuji Food Culture Award, the Culinary Masters Silver Award and Sake Samurai, he has carved a reputation for his creative approach to Japanese cuisine.
More importantly, he has also singlehandedly put the town of Shonai on the map. Through his inventiveness of Japanese cuisine, Chef Okuda has helped transformed the quiet town of Shonai into the number 1 municipality for tourists in the Yamagata Prefecture.
His contributions to both Japanese cuisine and his people have effectively made him an evangelist for Japanese food and culinary culture worldwide. As such he remains a highly-sought after chef, one who has held audiences with figures such as the Pope and the Dalai Lama.
This May, Chef Okuda brings his signature approach to Singapore as part of a residency in Amara Hotel’s Element Restaurant. Taking place from 12-20 May 2023, Chef Masayuki Okuda’s residency will see the world acclaimed culinary master prepare dishes such as the Ginza Olion Sushi, the ‘World’s First Oil Sushi’ that is crafted with no soy sauce but only with select oil and salts sourced from all over the world.
With his residency now in full swing, we speak to Chef Okada to discover his approach to Japanese cuisine, the importance of inventiveness in cooking and advocating sustainability in the culinary world.
As a chef, how would you define your culinary philosophy and approach to cooking?
My culinary philosophy is the understanding of the nature. I will always observe and research on the living organisms of each ingredient before creating my dishes.
What are your primary sources of inspiration?
I see and feel the nature in which the ingredients are grown and this gives me inspiration.
You have been known to expand on traditional Japanese cuisine with innovative ingredients and approach. How did you arrive at this concept?
When creating new dishes, I consider the sense of taste first. It is not easy to express the taste and flavours in Japanese dishes but with the help of Western techniques, the dish flavour profiles can be determined better. So you could say, my culinary approach is to create Asian flavours with western culinary techniques.
Do you limit yourself in what you can and cannot do when it comes to food preparation?
No I do not limit myself when it comes to food preparation. I focus a lot on bringing the best taste in every dish and am ever looking at ways to better bring out the taste profiles.
What can diners expect during your residency in Singapore?
I believe that you can experience the best of Shonai produce being harmonized with the delicate selection of oils and salt to bring a unique dining experience.
You’re a strong advocate for sustainability when it comes to cuisine. How do you showcase this message in your cooking?
I try to put focus on bringing the best in each produce and that to me is bringing thanks to the produce. All ingredients are living things on earth, so I would be happy if you could enjoy my food and thank the earth for it.
In your opinion what more can chefs and restaurateurs do to drive sustainability in the F&B industry?
Elimination of food waste is important, we can try not to put a burden on the earth and be a part of global food chain. In addition, we can be a part of the cycle of the earth by fermenting by-products from the process of cooking and using them as feed for livestock products or returning them to the soil. This is why I hope from my dishes we can feel the importance of earth.
Where do you see the progression of food culture and cuisine head towards in the near future?
I think food culture is ever evolving and I see a lot of new and innovative cuisines. I believe cuisines will progressively move towards integrating different techniques and produce together.
(Images: Amara Singapore)