Perry’s | Washington
Noriaki Yasutake was led to a culinary path by his father,
a sushi chef who owned and operated the family restaurant in Fukuoka
City, Japan. After making his first hand roll at age seven, Yasutake
was hooked and spent years cultivating the craft with the family
before deciding it was time to hone his craft abroad. At 18, Yasutake
came to the US to train and work as a sushi chef by working for
his uncle at Matsuba in Bethesda, Maryland.
From Bethesda, Yasutake moved to New York to work
under mentor chef Haruo Ohbu at Inagiku Restaurant. After
two years, Yasutake moved to Bond Street Sushi in New York
to work with distinguished sushi master and mentor Hiroshi Nakahara.
Nakahara challenged Yasutake to maintain high standards and begin
competing in sushi competitions. In 2002 Yasutake earned second
place in the Creative Sushi category at the National Sushi Society
of Washington, DC’s Annual Sushi Competition. The following
year, Yasutake went on to win first place in the National Sushi
Society of New York’s Annual Sushi Competition. Yasutake joined
Perry’s in February of 2006 as head Sushi Chef.
In 2006 Yasutake competed in the National Sushi Society’s
National Sushi Competition here in DC during the Cherry Blossom
Festival. Not only did Yasutake take top prize in the Creative Division
of the competition, he also mentored one of his sushi cooks at Perry’s
who had never competed before, helping him take home first prize
in the Roll Division.
Yasutake placed second in the World Sushi Olympics
in London this October with his Fish and Chips Roll, a dish that
expresses his distinct sushi-making style. The Fish and Chips Roll
is built from a crispy tempura batter intensely flavored with dashi,
rolled in fragrant shiso and nori and topped with a quenelle of
fluke tartare. The roll is garnished with a wasabi tartar sauce
sweetened with pickled ginger rather than the traditional chopped
cornichons. For an extra crunch, Yasutake garnishes the roll with
two impossibly thin and crisp potato fries.
TR: Did you go to culinary
NY: No. I learned everything
I know from hands-on experience.
TR: Who are
you mentors? What are some of the most important things you’ve
learned from them?
NY: My father was my first
mentor. For over two years I worked with Haruo Obu at the Waldorf-Astoria
who taught me basic Japanese cooking. Hiroshi Nakahara of Bond
St. taught me how to create dishes and how to be innovative,
and Chef Morou’s ideas and techniques inspire me.
TR: What is
you philosophy on food and dining?
NY: I think about food all
the time – my wife thinks I’m crazy. After work my team
and I come together and brainstorm. We’re always coming up
with new ideas and everyone’s ideas count.
TR: What flavor
combinations do you favor?
NY: I like tuna and garlic
chips. I’m also experimenting with white fish and ponzu sauce.
TR: What is
your most indispensable kitchen tool? Why?
NY: For plating I use long
metal chopsticks to manipulate delicate elements. I also use Nenox
TR: Is there
a culinary technique that you have either created or use in an unusual
way? Please describe.
NY: I make a tempura batter
with fish stock which gives it a strong fish flavor. I like tinkering
with ideas and reorganizing old ideas.
TR: What is
your favorite question to ask during an interview for a potential
new line cook?
NY: Do you like cooking? Are
TR: What tips
would you offer young chefs just getting started?
NY: Cook from the heart, not from the hand.
TR: What cities
do you like for culinary travel?
NY: Everywhere in Spain and
TR: What are
your favorite restaurants—off the beaten path—in your
NY: I’m crazy about Café
Atlantico. Makoto Restaurant has a lunchbox special, grilled
fish and mackerel. Sushi Taro has very good quality sushi.
After work I go to Anangol Korean with my team.
TR: What trends
do you see emerging in the restaurant industry now?
NY: I think chefs and diners
are becoming more interested in strange or new condiments as an
alternative to soy sauce. Powders, such as Cajun, curry or tea,
are also big.
do you see yourself in 5 years? In 10 years?
NY: I want my own place with
a small open kitchen, tapas style.
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