Chef Yoshihiro Murata, a distinguished authority on Japanese cooking, is renowned for his ability to combine tradition with innovation. He is the third-generation chef-owner of the restaurant Kikunoi, which serves Kaiseki cuisine, a refined and stylized approach to cooking derived from the Japanese tea ceremony, which has its roots in Zen Buddhism.
Murata’s restaurants have been awarded seven Michelin stars—more than any other in Japan. The culinary artistry of Kikunoi is collected in his first English-language cookbook, Kaiseki (Kodansha International, 2006), which won “Best Chef Book in the World” at the Gourmand World Cookbook Award in 2006 and was nominated for The James Beard Foundation Award in 2007.
Murata serves as chairman of the Japanese Culinary Academy and travels all over the globe to showcase his knowledge and modern techniques. In Addition to his professional activities, he is a well-known TV personality on cooking shows, and is one of the most popular chefs among home cooks in Japan, where he has published many bestselling home recipe books. This is his first home cookbook in English.
In his own words...
I'm the third-generation proprietor of the Kyoto-based Kikunoi ryotei restaurants, where we use seasonal ingredients to breathe new life into traditional kaiseki cuisine and ensure its ongoing evolution.
I'm also Director of the Japanese Culinary Academy. The Academy's purpose is to promote Japanese cooking--the essence of Japan's proud culinary culture--on the world stage, and set the future global standard for Japanese cuisine.
In addition to initiatives such as Japanese cooking competitions and the promotion of good eating through education, the Academy invites frontline chefs from Europe, North America and South America to Kyoto, Japan to study Japanese cuisine and enjoy a taste of Japanese culture. In turn, members of the Japanese Culinary Academy visit countries such as France, Spain and the United States to run workshops with top chefs there.
International demand for healthier cooking is growing, contributing to a burgeoning interest in Japanese culinary techniques and ingredients. Japanese cooking basically draws out the natural umami of food without relying on fats or oils. In my view this latest emphasis on healthy eating offers the perfect opportunity to promote Japan's culinary culture, including the philosophy and techniques underpinning tasty, healthy Japanese cooking, to an even wider global audience.
This November, the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone (the CIA's California Campus in the Napa Valley) will host a forum entitled Japan: Flavors of Culture -- from Sushi and Soba to Kaiseki. An All-Japan team consisting mainly of Japanese Culinary Academy members will offer seminars on the culture and techniques of Japanese cuisine.
Traditionally the Japanese make use of the umami of stock (dashi) obtained from kombu seaweed and bonito flakes. However there's no need to take a strictly 'authentic' approach -- umami can equally be found in cheese, tomatoes, beef and wine. In Japanese Home Cooking I offer ideas for dishes with umami that do not require traditional dashi, but simply the right combination of ingredients, and a base such as chicken stock. Even outside of Japan, anyone can cook Japanese food using ingredients found in an ordinary supermarket, and the kind of pots and pans found in ordinary kitchens.
My previous book Kaiseki showcased Kyoto's kaiseki cuisine, which allows one to truly eat one's way through the seasons. Hopefully after reading it you'll be inspired to visit Kyoto and experience these seasonal delights for yourself. For the latest book, Japanese Home Cooking, I've chosen simple recipes that are quick to prepare. Read it, go to the supermarket to buy the ingredients, and have a go at cooking the food of Japan in your own kitchen. I guarantee you'll soon be dining on delicious, healthy Japanese cuisine at home. Don't worry if your first efforts are less than perfect. Gradually your Japanese cooking skills will improve, leaving you and your loved ones healthier and happier. And what could be better than that?