Interview with Tetsuya Wakuda

Antoinette Bruno: Why did you start cooking? What or who influenced you to become a chef?
Tetsuya Wakuda: It was an accident. In 1982 I was in Australia and I got a job washing dishes while I was trying to get a work permit.

AB: Did you attend culinary school? Would you recommend it to people today?
TW: No, I didn’t. But I would recommend it to young people today. There are plenty of good schools.

AB: Can you talk about your mentors?
TW: Alfonso Laccarino, whom I admire for his purity of food and cooking. Also Charlie Trotter, because he started out washing dishes and taught me about the business.

AB: Which chefs do you consider to be your peers?
TW: Ferrán Adrià has also had a big influence in my life. I’ve spent a lot of time with him, and he is why I have a soft spot for Spain.

AB: What is your most indispensable kitchen tool?
TW: The latest convection steam oven.

AB: What is your favorite question to ask during an interview to a potential line cook?
TW: Are you willing to marry me? You will spend more time with me than your spouse. In fact, you will spend half your life with me. Are you willing to do that?

AB: What tips would you offer to young chefs getting started?
TW: Make sure that you love eating, not just cooking. If not, you should look for another profession.

AB: What are your favorite cookbooks?
TW: I love cookbooks. I just received Ferrán’s from the early 80s, his history of cooking. I also like the book of Alain Ducasse’s life.

AB: What is your advice for experimenting chefs?
TW: Take a technique and digest it. Copy it at first, but then use it as inspiration to make something of your own.

AB: What trends and breakthroughs do you see in food now?
TW: I see a return to basics, which is the best breakthrough. One thing I had this year was beef from Tasmania, and wow, it was great. It’s backyard beef, grass-fed, with no antibiotics and no hormones. We have forgotten what is natural, and that it is what is best.

   Published: May 2006