Len DePas Photography


Noriaki Yasutake
1811 Columbia Rd NW
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 234-6218

Recipe »

Tejal Rao: Why did you start cooking? What or who inspired you to become a chef?
Noriaki Yasutake: At age seven I made my first hand roll. My father was my hero; he was a sushi chef. I started working with him at eighteen, and at then at nineteen I moved to the US where I worked for my uncle at Matsuba in Bethesda, Maryland.

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Noriaki Yasutake
Perry’s | Washington DC

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.

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Interview Cont'd
TR: Did you go to culinary school?
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 knives.

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 you humble?

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 Europe!

TR: What are your favorite restaurants—off the beaten path—in your city?
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.

TR: Where 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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   Published: October 2006