-Interviews with Top Chefs in Japan-

Life in the Kitchen

Sushi Master Watanabe’s Quest for Uniqueness

~Teruzushi in Kyushu Entertaining Guests from All Over the World~

Takayoshi Watanabe/Teruzushi

Apr-30-2020
Interviewed on Feb-2018

To Live = To Make Sushi

To Live = To Make Sushi

―Were you originally interested in succeeding Teruzushi?

No. In fact, I was fascinated with French cuisine when I was in elementary school. Then, during my teenage years, I devoted myself to Judo, but becoming a professional was not quite my dream. I was always halfway through. However, today, I live to make sushi. My dedication to sushi is completely different. To be honest, I became committed to sushi only recently―in these two to three years. After training at a Japanese cuisine restaurant for three years, I experienced two years of sales. I was not earnestly trained by the predecessor, so even I am surprised of becoming so attracted to making sushi.

―Your visual impact is outstanding. When did you start this approach?

Four years ago, we unexpectedly encountered a 300-year-old Japanese cypress on sale. Until then, we stored ingredients behind the counter just like any ordinary local sushi restaurant. I wanted a change after being part of the restaurant for more than a decade. That’s why I made the counter completely open, presenting myself more. Plus, I wanted to surprise my customers by entertaining them with big knives. Finally, I invented an easy pose that everyone can recognize as Teruzushi’s, so that they too can imitate and spread the word about the restaurant.

―Nowadays, local areas of Japan are vitalized more than ever, even surpassing Tokyo. There are local restaurants that express themselves through social networks and they are full of unique qualities.

Thank you. I contact Chef Tashiro from TOBIUME almost every day. As we’ve known each other during hard times, doing challenging things with him is very exciting.

This fresh truffle is from Kanagawa Prefecture
This fresh truffle is from Kanagawa Prefecture. He coincidentally found this truffle and contacted the person who deals it, and obtained this treasure. “At first, I was hesitant to use foreign ingredients, but since I found it in Japan and truffles are with great aroma, I use them for my appetizers,” says Chef Watanabe.

The Secret Behind Teruzushi’s Delicious Sushi

The Secret Behind Teruzushi’s Delicious Sushi

―A fish not “aged” but “rested.” What is it?

A technique “shinkei-jime” is a method to exsanguinate fish while they are still alive. Actually, I discovered this technique on Facebook. I fell in love with it after first obtaining it. In fact, the fishiness of fish is caused by its blood. Thus, extracting it fundamentally would keep the fish from spoiling. The smell and color are preserved very beautifully with a magnificent white body. I am grateful for Mr.Ideguchi from Goto Island who distributes me the shinkei-jime executed fish.

My hometown Kitakyushu
“My hometown Kitakyushu is an area famously known for abalone. That’s why I can provide 17 ~ 24 ounces per order of simply steamed abalone amounting to hundred ounces at the end of the day. This is for four to five people! After I steam it, I add the liver sauce. The sauce is composed of fatty content, salt, and vinegar. When combined, it becomes thick like a mayonnaise. This with rich fragrance of liver are served with vinegared rice,” claims chef Watanabe.
I happened to meet the unagi

I happened to meet the unagi (eel) hunter― a man who has fishing rights for eels―when I visited Oita Prefecture. Despite the present age, he is able to prepare 400 to 1,000 ounces of wild eels. I tried buying all of them before. At first, I was serving it as an appetizer, but my customers claimed that it was too much. I guess I try to entertain the guests too much (chuckle). I pondered on how I can use the eels.

―That’s how you discovered a unagi hamburger with rice inside.

Yes. As I am attracted to unprecedented ideas, I figured I can sandwich the rice with eels. This idea was the start. On top of that, I was able to procure wonderful seaweed from Saga Prefecture. I want the guests to fully enjoy the crunchy texture of the roasted eel.

―You are determined to provide the tastiest dishes. Is the purchase route succeeded by the predecessor?

No, I procured most ingredients from new partners. Although finding partners by oneself is a very difficult process, I had spare time when I first started the restaurant. As I was seeking for new things, I utilized my phone to communicate and social networks to discover them. Through this communication, I was able to meet wonderful people and connect with chefs from all over the world. After making the first contact, I asked the person to look me up on Facebook. I realized it is a perfect tool to explain myself to others.

The Past Hardship Making Present Success

The Past Hardship Making Present Success

Sadly, when we didn't have so many customers, we had to discard or eat spoiled quality ingredients by ourselves. Today, I am delighted that I could prepare my exquisite ingredients for the gourmets. Gaining the value of local ingredients through my dishes―that is the happiest thing.

#ThisisTeruzushistyle―Spreading Teruzushi from Local to the World

#ThisisTeruzushistyle―Spreading Teruzushi from Local to the World

―You advertised your restaurant by yourself. How was the reactions?

Today, we live in the age of social network. Your posts can be recognized by the world-famous chefs. For instance, top chefs like Gaggan Anand―a chef of Gaggan that was ranked first place in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018―was very interested in my restaurant and actually visited. He even reserved for next time.
  Placing the restaurant at rural Tobata Ward made me what I am today. Since people come all the way to visit my local restaurant, I constantly think about what will satisfy my customers the most. When the town is energized by visitors, I can buy more ingredients and contribute to vitalization of this area. Everybody benefits, and I would be grateful if I can set this kind of example.

Previous Interviews