I am asked time and time again about my preferences in sushi, and I often refer to Mr. T as one of the finest chef’s in Tokyo. No pretension whatsoever, just attitude when needed.
I judge a sushi chef based on his ability to be consistent, quality of fish, style, rice, taste and technique. The fact is, Mr. T is not a Michelin pick and for a very good reason. He is not in a position to invite strangers into his small counter located in central Tokyo.
The problem is; a chef that has what is considered to be elite clients, cannot risk the faux pas of any stranger, who in turn could offend one of his important or regular clients. If you take Jiro for example, he excused himself to take clients to be the pride of Michelin. There was a time when he was so very strict about foreigners entering his restaurant and rightly so.
Jiro Story: http://mesubim.com/2015/04/05/jiro-joke/
Since his Michelin recognition he permits anyone into his small counter restaurant. I can tell you that in the past if you showed up as an English speaker, even with a reservation, and with a translator, he wouldn’t accept you. He would even eject you-read the article link above to understand better.
It is obvious that in the west, wealthy individuals who have money, have influence and call the shots. It can happen that they are demanding, and even abrasive by nature, or just untutored. If such a person is unfamiliar with Japanese manners and customs, it could easily happen they interfere with the pleasure of another client. Hence the client never returns.
In Japan many clients re-visit their favourite establishments for many years. If a restaurant is consider worthy of their black book, it becomes scared. This isn’t easily shared and is one of the reasons why people need to be cautious of any introduction, and in-particular because it reflects on their own character. An introduction means holding full responsibility, and if something goes wrong, anything, it’s all your fault.
It is also important to understand that many Japanese individuals are often corporate employees, and not individuals who are affluent. Relationships are key, that’s the system here in Japan. A person’s pride is how they ride, and where they ride, so their black book is held tight to their chest.
That’s not to say that all Japanese are polite, and so any capable exclusive chef takes his pick of the litter. That’s they way it is here in Japan. I rarely introduce gaijin because they do not understand the depth of trouble they can create by a sudden action. Frankly gaijin cannot live with most Japanese standards, and almost always need a chef to adapt their own program. Whatever the reasons, it doesn’t matter, and in Japan people are aware that the chef is king = respect. We can say that in America, the client is King and that’s the difference here.
Categories: Kitchen Facts