21:Kazuteru Okamoto, the head chef, KKR Toba Isobue Sou

Kazuteru Okamoto used the ingredients from Ise-Shima area in the Japanese Cuisine National Competition and received the Minister of Education Award for Local Dishes.His family runs the inn in Kuzaki, the sea-side town of Toba city. He loves fishing and he knows about the seafood of Toba very well.

My family runs the Inn and they also go fishing in the fishery town.I was grown in that circumstance and my folks nearly forced me to help them to run their inn. So, I didn’t have any question to get in the cuisine field. At first, I moved from inns and ryokans which had understaffing kitchens but now I have settled for long time in KKR Isobue Sou since I got the job in 1993.

In addition to the daily job, I had to send my work of Japanese cuisine course menu to the exhibitions based on my company policy. When I was young, I sometimes questioned if it was meaningful or not especially in the busy season. I had to create my course on my own from ground zero. When I had a conflict, my senior chef gave me some advice, “you must to be able to do subtraction.” I used to have an idea that if you had 10 things, you had to use all of them, and it would please my guests. That was I believed. But there should be ups and downs even in a course. In the middle of the course, I put some dish which is not gorgeous but heart-warming and rustic. It gives some effect to the guests to get comfortable and enjoy their next dish without any tension.By putting the variety in the course, they get feeling of satisfaction much more when they finish all the dishes through the course.Through those exhibitions, I became to be able to build up well- balanced menu for the course.However,I have to admit that subtraction is difficult. If you were not sure about what you made, you wouldn’t want to take away anything from your course.
I was told to attend to every exhibition, and that gave me huge useful experiences and self-confidence.

I was transferred to the group hotels in Kyoto and Osaka as a chef.I had great time to learn many things there, but I felt inconvenient because I had some difficulty to get the ingredients which I expected.All the fish shops were closed on Sundays and you couldn’t even get an Ise-Ebi Lobster .That was the moment I realized how good Toba was. You can easily get a rich variety of fish in Toba.Ise-Ebi Lobsters, abalones, seaweeds. And you can get Sawara, the Spanish mackerel as soon as you want. In the big cities, you don’t eat Sawara Sashimis, because the fish go bad so easily and quickly. Everybody has its own favorite dish, depending on the prefectures and areas. But Sawara, the Spanish mackerel is a coming fish in Toba, I am very interested in using the local product in my dish.In Osaka, gurnard is considered as luxury fish and eaten as Sashimi or in Suimono, clear soup. They are caught in Toba as well.But much people know about it, so they don’t visit Toba to eat it. The gurnard is of little value and it is not sold in the fish market at all.I wonder if there is any way to give the value to the unused fish in Toba like that.My parents were engaged in fishery and I love fishing. I know what kind of fish you can catch in each season.If we use those unused but delicious fish as some local specialties, we may be going to have wider range of tour plans and cuisine of Toba.Also, I am thinking that if we found the way to use more seaweed in our cuisine, Ama-divers could make their lives easier, because they are aging.In Isobue-Sou, we serve the rice porridge with seven kinds of seaweeds for breakfast. It is quite popular, and some guests visit us for it.

The sense of taste doesn’t stay in the same way. It seems that I give stronger and richer flavor to my dish than I used to.I would like to keep on driving forward to my cuisine without falling into self -satisfaction as a chef. Moving with the trend, I want to keep trying to create my own dishes.

Category: Itamae

20:The assistant proprietress, Junko Ishihara, the assistant proprietress of Oyado Hamabe-Ya

The best thing is to visit Toba and enjoy our food here.
Because it is now such a convenient time you can get anything you want from all over Japan.

I run the Ryokan in Ohama of Toba city with my family. Once I worked as a swimming instructor, I took over our family business and become a chef when I was 20 years old. We have only 4 rooms and by running small Ryokan, I get much opportunities to meet people. I try to be flexible to deal with the guests as listening to their requests.

Both my grand father and my father are the pole – and -line fishermen. They both took over the Ryokan and worked as the chefs. As my mother works as the grand OKAMI, so I am an assistant proprietress, WAKA-OKAMI. And I also am ITAMAE, the professional Japanese cuisine chef. I was supposed to be ITAMAE, so I went to the cookery school. I feel very close to ours guest, even though I don’t often get out from the kitchen. They have my dish when they stay with us, that’s why I feel so.Our guests are mainly from Tokai and Kansai area, and most of them come back to us again and again.

I have been working in our Ryokan so far, since I had graduated the school. When I was young, I sometimes wondered if it was right choice or not, or if there were better jobs for me. But I am fond of my job as a chef, I love cooking very much now.My father is a fisherman, and I do want our guests enjoy the fresh seafood he catches from the shore.We are always able to serve the fresh seafood from our tank, which he caught just in the morning.

It is quite common for the tourists to Toba to eat luxury seafood like Ise-Ebi Lobster or Abalones. But I wanted to change that, so I made the plans to enjoy local small fish in our Ryokan. Small fish is as very good as luxury seafood. Besides, they are not expensive. So, our guests become to like it and visit us over and over. Sea bream, young yellowtail and swordfish. Now, I would like many people to know how good they are.

In Toba, it is not difficult to get fresh and natural seafood all the time.I didn’t realize that how lucky I am to be able to live in this precious environment, until my sons started living outside of the city.They always tell me that they want to eat fish from our ocean, seaweeds are also tastier, and they especially like Wakame seaweeds.

I was invited to attend to the MORI-NO-ICHI, the Market in the Woods held in Ise City as one of the stalls, and what I wanted to sell was fish, of course. Firstly, I was hesitated to sell local fish among the fashionable coffee stands and bake shops, but it was not necessary to, because my fish burgers, which I made with deep fried Spanish mackerels were all sold out in an hour! To make my burgers to be original and unique, I made the bread dough with minced Wakame seaweed and baked the buns. And between my Wakame buns, I put the deep flied Sawara, the spanish mackerels which were caught from the ocean just next to our Ryokan.I also sold some grilled sun-dried swordfish in the plastic cups in my stall on that day, unexpectedly it was quite popular among the kids.But I realized that most of them knew the fish itself, both the Spanish mackerel or the swordfish.I usually have to work in the kitchen as a chef, and that means I don’t much chance to attend that kind of events, but it is sure I had a good opportunity to let people know that how good our local fish is.

Even though, it is now such a convenient time you can get anything you want from all over Japan, the best thing is to visit Toba and enjoy our food here.Once you visit Toba and have our good food, you will surely come back to us.In our Ryokan, we will provide you only seasonal seafood, and it is going to be our specialty and strength. It is my asset to live in Toba through my life. And it was lucky of me to raise my kids in my town. Fortunately, they also love the food from Toba.
Category: Okami