Chef Tadeo Mikami:
The Apogee of Art & Food
a child, Tadeo Mikami wanted to be a policeman, but when he was
16 he was drafted into his family’s restaurant where he found
his real passion: designing, creating, and serving Japanese cuisine.
At the age of 17, Mikami joined a group of exceptional chefs licensed
to prepare Fugu (blowfish), which is considered one of the greatest
delicacies in Japan but is poisonous if prepared incorrectly.
It is prepared in 20 minutes under the supervision of two judges.
is] an extremely hard skill to acquire,” according to Keita Sato,
the manager of Hatsuhana, where Mikami is the chef. “Three out
of four cannot pass this test. He was in an extremely select group.”
Mikami brought his cooking expertise to New York 26 years ago
and for the past three years has been head chef at Hatsuhana,
a Kappo Kaiseki bar. As the restaurant’s menu simply explains,
“Kappo is a variety of small, savory dishes served to complement
sake. Kaiseki cuisine consists of the day’s freshest ingredients
in a tasting course format.”
While Mikami is preparing a dish, an observer gets an idea of
how focused he is. His movements are controlled, precise, and
unhurried (but amazingly swift). Behind the Kappo bar is a limited
amount of space, about 10 feet long and three feet wide. He and
his under-chefs move deftly around the small space and in and
out of the kitchen continuously preparing dishes.
Mr. Mikami loves his work because of the constant changes and
innovations it requires. Yet, teaching his craft to others also
gives him satisfaction. At one point, he was teaching Japanese
cuisine to classes of up to 40 students at a time.
love [to teach], if people are interested in learning,” said Mikami.
“If they are not, I never teach.”
According to Mikami, a chef who learns from a master Japanese-trained
chef tends to remain faithful to authentic Japanese cuisine.
you learn directly from a Japanese-trained teacher, you will get
more authentic food,” Mikami emphasized, adding “if you study
under the right chef, you won’t have trouble learning.” He added,
“[You are] unlimited in how much you can expand [creatively and
Great chefs need advisors too, according to Mikami. He gets most
of his advice from the owner of Hatsuhana. Some elements of Japanese
cuisine always evolve. Mikami explained that Japanese cuisine
is not concerned only with taste, but also with stimulating the
other four senses. Following a path that has become traditional
for Japanese chefs, he took classes in Japan on the art of flower
arranging, calligraphy, and tea ceremonies, which he says are
very beneficial to mastering Japanese cuisine. These skills have
helped him in making dishes that have themes because they give
a better idea of what is going to please the senses.
Often, customers do not understand that the selection of food
in a given dish is not random, but that each item represents something.
Mikami often takes the time to explain the meaning of a dish,
consequently compounding everyone’s enjoyment.
When a customer takes the time to look at the dish before eating
it, he is aware of the artistry of Mikami’s work. “Customers are
the ultimate judges and when people say ‘wow,’ then I feel great,”
says Mikami.” #
can visit Mikami at Hatsuhana, 17 E. 48th St., (212) 355-3345
Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001. Tel:
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