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WAREWASHING W


hen I moved to Australia, I did not know anything. I did not even speak a word of English. I had no


formal culinary training. I learnt everything in the kitchen,” says Japanese chef Tetsuya Wakuda, who has just collected the Diner’s Club Lifetime Achievement Award at Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards 2015. “It is a great, great honour,” he says of


the award. “It’s been more than 28 years since I opened my own restaurant. The fact that people still chose us for this award – it is unreal to me.” Wakuda is the chef behind Tetsuya’s


in Sydney, awarded Restaurant of the Year by The Sydney Morning Herald in 1998, 2001, and 2008. It has consistently ranked in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants since the list’s inception in 2002, with his number fi ve ranking in 2007 sealing his reputation as one of the world’s elite chefs. His Singapore restaurant Waku Ghin, which opened in 2010, recently secured the ninth spot in this year’s Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list.


But despite all the recognition,


Wakuda remains fi rmly focused. “When you come to my restaurant, there are no awards on display,” he says. “When we receive an award, I congratulate the staff. Then, we have to work harder. We put the award in a box and it goes into storage.” The 55-year old who grew up in Hamamatsu, a town in Japan’s Shizuoka Prefecture, has come a long way since moving to Sydney at the age of 22. He found his fi rst job as a kitchen hand at


Fishwives Seafare Restaurant. A year later he met Sydney chef Tony Bilson and became the sushi specialist in Kinsela’s. Wakuda also learnt classical French techniques in Kinsela’s, and opened Ultimo’s with Kinsela’s head waiter in 1986, a venture that lasted for two years. When Tetsuya’s fi rst restaurant opened in 1989, it could seat only 20 people. “I had one stove and an


oven,” recalls Wakuda. Now, he has a team of almost 100 with a staff of 60 in Sydney and 38 in Singapore. “When I want to do something, I am single-minded,” he says. That intense focus and drive has ensured Wakuda is consistently ranked among the world’s best chefs. He says: “An old man once told me: ‘Fame, success, and money you don’t chase. When you chase it, it will run away’.” So, what’s his secret? “I don’t go for


The main dining hall of Wakuda’s Waku Ghin restaurant in Singapore


that he has a company that makes his own olive oil. “For our olive oil in Italy, we go to harvest and help the local people.”


Master of cuisine


trends,” he says. With new, high-tech kitchen gadgets, he tells his chefs: “I’m willing to buy it for you. But fi rst you have to create a fl avour that wows me.” Wakuda goes to great lengths to get exactly the ingredients he wants. “I get involved with the fi sherman and fi sheries,” he says. “We invest in creating the ingredients. We buy the company and help in the development.” He explains


“When I want to do something, I am single-minded. An old man once told me: ‘Fame, success, and money you don’t chase. When you chase it, it will run away’”


It is this same obsession with obtaining the best ingredients that lead him to become a Brand Ambassador for Tasmania. He fi rst visited the island state in 1990 to source fi sh for what has become his signature dish, confi t of Tasmanian trout, and he continues to source key ingredients for his Sydney and Singapore restaurants. “We ask the farmers there to grow certain ingredients to our specifi cations. I go there every month,” he explains. Wakuda has won the respect of his


birthplace, Japan, and his adopted home, Australia. He is the Japanese sake industry’s fi rst overseas Sake Samurai (or Sake Ambassador) – he even makes his own top-of-the-range sake – and the sake menu in Waku Ghin is 100 pages long. In 2013 he became the fi rst internationally- based chef to be named as one of Japan’s Masters of Cuisine. The Australian


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