Chef Tetsuya Wakuda of Waku Ghin - Biography
Tetsuya Wakuda grew up in Hamamatsu, a town on the main Japanese island of Honshu. He left there in 1982 bound for Australia, which he found fascinating for its koalas and kangaroos. At 22, he landed on the shores of Sydney with a shaky grasp of English and little knowledge of his new home. What he did know was that he loved food, so he soon found himself working as a kitchenhand at Fishwives in Surry Hills. After a year there he met Sydey chef Tony Bilson, who asked Wakuda to come and prepare sushi at one of his restaurants, Kinsela’s. With no formal training Wakuda took on the task and soon realized that food would be a lifelong passion for him. At Kinsela’she also learned many classic French techniques that form a huge part of his style to this day.
Wakuda left Kinsela’s and worked in a series of restaurants before going into partnership with a friend to open up their own place, Ultimo’s. This is where Wakuda first dove into the business side of restaurants, which proved good training for when he opened up his own restaurant, Tetsuya’s, in 1989. Located in the Sydney suburb of Rozelle, Tetsuya’s quickly had lines out the door. It only sat about 20 people, and Wakuda worked in a kitchen the size of a car. They remodeled for space over the years, but in 2000, Wakuda relocated the restaurant to Kent Street in Sydney.
His restaurant was awarded “Best Sydney Restaurant” in 2002 by American Express and was dubbed “Best Australasian Restaurant 2004” by Restaurant Magazine in London, which has also placed it in the top 5 restaurants worldwide. Wakuda’s food combines Japanese and French elements, but he dislikes the term “fusion.” Meals at his restaurant mimic Japanese kaiseki meals, where courses are several and small and presentation is just as important as taste. Today he is widely considered to be Australia’s most innovative and influential chef, and in 2001 he published a cookbook of his recipes, Tetsuya, which also includes commentary on food and photographs of his stunning presentations. Wakuda makes a point of traveling extensively for his job, learning new culinary techniques and ingredients by eating abroad and participating in the culinary congress circuit.