Chef du jour: Niseko Gourmet’s Sushi Master

in Destinations/Dining by

Niseko Gourmet complements your adrenaline-packed snow adventure holiday with an exceptional dining service, ensuring you are replenished and re-energized daily. All of your culinary requirements are catered for, from grocery shopping to gourmet food delivery and even in-chalet private chef dining experiences. A favourite with both locals and visitors, Niseko Gourmet has satisfied discerning palates for more than twelve years. Chef Kamada-San is a sushi master and an integral part of the Niseko Gourmet success story.  Starting as a 15-year-old and with a career spanning more than 50 years – Chef Kamada-San is credited as a founding influence on the Niseko food renaissance. As one of Niseko Gourmet’s longest-standing chefs and its sushi master, it was an honour to chat with him and savour his signature dishes!

Elite Havens: Hi, Chef Kamada-san. When and how did you make the move to Niseko?

Chef Kamada-san: When I was working in a sushi restaurant in Sendai (early 1972), a diner walked up to me and said that his friend needed some help at his restaurant in Kutchan. I decided to take the opportunity and made the move, where I worked for 3 years and coincidentally also where I met my wife. She was a loyal customer, and, from memory, I think it was me who said the first words to her. After we got married, we both went on to open our own sushi restaurant in Kutchan and operated it for 35 years.

EH: How did you come to work at Niseko Gourmet?

CK: I think it was meant to be, that at the time my restaurant shut, I met Tess Stomsky (the founder of Niseko Gourmet) and then began serving quality sushi to the customers of Niseko Gourmet.

EH: What makes you happiest at work?

CK: When my customers are at their most content, I am too. I also just love making sushi. The process and the pursuit of perfection gives me joy.

EH: What are you thinking of when you make each piece of nigiri?

CK: I am always focused on my customers and giving them the best food possible.

EH: What are some of your most memorable experiences?

CK: Working with different staff members from different countries. When I first started serving customers at Niseko Gourmet, I thought I’d only be making sushi. But these days, I serve sukiyaki and shabu-shabu and I love every part of it.

EH: When we watch you make nigiri, it seems every piece is the same size. How do you do that?

CK: I feel like my hands have a memory of their own. Having said that, I still feel that I improve my technique every single day.

EH: Do you feel it’s important to maintain the traditional way of making sushi or to be innovative?

CK: There are a lot of decorated forms of sushi but I prefer to continue to make the traditional form of nigiri. Sometimes I’m surprised to see the kinds of sushi made overseas, but I want to value and maintain Japan’s traditional forms.

EH: What are your favourite types of sushi?

CK: I like hikarimono, silver-skinned fish like mackerel, sardines and gizzard shad.

EH: When choosing fish, what do you look for?

CK: I check the colour and how fresh the fish is. The fish should have clear eyes, and when the skin is touched it should bounce back.

EH: From whom would you like to take a cooking class?

CK: Someone who cooks washoku, traditional Japanese cuisine, really well.

EH: Any advice to future business owners in the food industry?

CK: The food presented at each restaurant depends on the chef. But be conscientious. Business is also dependent on the relationships you build with people. Friends and human connections are very important. Be they with your customers, your staff members or even your suppliers.

EH: What is your guilty pleasure?

CK: I like sweets like apple pie and I also love beer. When I go out with my friends, they want to share a sake but I say no and continue to drink beer.

EH: Do you have a good work-life balance?

CK: I do. Even when I owned my own restaurant and couldn’t have too much time off, I still enjoyed seeing regular customers, and it was like spending time with friends.

EH: Any goals you’re trying to achieve?

CK: I’m trying to maintain my health and well-being so I carefully monitor my diet.

EH: And lastly, what does Niseko mean to you?

CK: Comfort, and nature.

Stay in an elite haven anytime between 15 – 27 September 2019 and enjoy a complimentary bottle of Sake (720ml) OR 12 Sapporo beers (500ml) for any private dinner or delivery orders from Niseko Gourmet. Book by 31st August for stays between 1 December 2019 – 31 March 2020 and enjoy 10% discount. Terms and conditions apply. 

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