• Andrea Fazzari

"I really can’t stand cooking the same dishes all the time."

Why do you cook?

My grandfather was a chef in Shinbashi; he had his own kappo [traditional Japanese restaurant] there. I really, really loved my grandfather, especially when he was cooking. He passed away when I was seven. I wasn’t interested in the food because I was too young, but I just remember how fascinated I was watching him in the kitchen. When I was a high school student, I decided to be a chef. I was always interested because my mom is a nutritionist, so I grew up around food. And when I had to decide what to do for the future, I decided it would be cooking. In the second year of high school, I decided to go to culinary school instead of university. Another reason is that because most of my high school friends when to university, I wanted to do something different.

Tell me a bit about how you formulate dishes.

I notice many small things in my daily life. Like when I’m having tea, I’ll suddenly think what would it be like to make consommé with tea. And like now, I’m looking at your tea and thinking about making consommé and drinking it like tea. I like red wine and bonito, blue cheese and red wine; they all go together well, so this will be a new dish. Bonito is in season right now. I made blue cheese powder, grilled the bonito, added some walnuts and raisins.I change my dishes depending on the season. I change little by little over time. I really can’t stand cooking the same dishes all the time.

Why a seafood-only restaurant?

The first reason is because I wanted to do something that no one was doing. And I love fish; I’m good at cooking fish.

What motivates you to keep moving forward?

Other chefs really, like Hiroyasu Kawate and Shuzo Kishida who I used to work for. I feel that if I focus on fish, perhaps I can become better than they are one day. I am eager to improve and advance in my career. I can see what I am going to become, and that my food is getting better and better.

What is your earliest food memory?

I loved karaage [fried chicken], especially from my grandfather. I can still remember the taste of it. I was about four or five years old. My grandfather really liked to drink, so my family often went to a favorite izakaya to eat. The karaage was from this izakaya. I would always sit next to my grandfather, and he would share his karaage with me.

Who do you admire in the food world?

Hiroyasu Kawate is really intense about food and enjoys it so much. Shuzo Kishida, my former boss, of course, at Quintessence - I am always only thinking about food, just like him.

What was one of your most valuable experiences living in Marseilles?

I wanted to work in a Michelin-three-star restaurant in France. I wrote to them all—forty of them—and Le Petit Nice-Passedat replied. Some others did, too, but I accepted the first one that replied. I stayed in Marseilles for one year. Le Petit Nice-Passedat focused on fish, so working at this restaurant helped me decide to focus on seafood when I came back to Japan.

For you, what does it mean to be Japanese?

Our attention to detail. Everything we create is so detailed, and I am proud of this. I bring this into the kitchen.

What do you like most about Tokyo, and what do you think makes it different from other cities around the world?

I can do anything I want here. There are so many possibilities in Tokyo. If I do something unique, it’s okay here. Often in Japan, people are followers. People avoid being unique themselves, though they like unique people.

If you could share a meal with anyone, who would it be?

Ichiro, who now plays for the Miami Marlins.

Kazutoshi Sakurai, the lead vocalist of Mr. Children, a Japanese rock band.

Yutaka Take, a jockey. He’s very smart.

What cause or charity is most important to you?

I am not yet involved with a charity, but I care about food for children. I have two young children, so that’s important to me, that they eat quality food. We should be more focused on the quality of what we eat.

Abysse Ebisu Hills 1f, 1-30-12 Ebisunishi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

mail: information@abysse.jp +81368043846

Abysse has 1 Michelin Star and is listed as #38 on OAD Japan.

  • Andrea Fazzari

"I think too much about food!"

Why do you cook?

My parents had a restaurant in Koenji, it was a casual diner called Maruyoshi. I grew up in their kitchen and had a number of responsibilities. When I was a toddler, I was a dishwasher.

I went to culinary school in Shinjuku for one year after high school. Japanese culinary school seemed like a joke at the time to me. It was like a club and not so serious. Many friends my age didn’t really want to be chefs, but it was considered an easy option. But I was serious from the beginning. In high school, I wanted to be a Japanese chef for my grandmother. My parents were very busy. Every day after elementary and junior high school, I would go home to my grandmother and she would cook for me. She would sometimes bring me to the park, like Jindai Botanical Park in Mitaka [western Tokyo]. To this day, whenever I see flowers I think of her. I loved her and loved being with her. When I was in elementary school, she was already about eighty. I wanted to cook for her. I knew her palate, so I wanted to cook her the things that she liked, such as nabe [hot pot dishes] and tsukemono [preserved vegetables].

There was one great culinary teacher at my school; he taught us French cooking, European cooking. I was really interested in the presentation of the dishes, which seemed to be more complicated. Traditional Japanese cooking is very simple, so this interested me.

What motivates you?

I just want to create something new for each customer. If I do make the same dishes, I try to improve on them every day. When I graduated from culinary school, I was at the top of the class. At graduation, I was to have gotten the best award, but the teachers didn’t like that I would correct them. Only one teacher liked me. They said I was a bit too blunt and honest. They told me I wouldn’t be a successful chef, but I wanted to prove them wrong.

What has the biggest influence on your cooking?

The ingredients, and the seasons for sure. Wine inspires me, French wine. I am also a sommelier. Wine takes me to heaven. I have created the Wine Tasting dessert, which is about ten or twelve little pieces of jelly made from wine. Half are made from white wines and half from reds, reflecting the essence and flavors of the wines. I also vary the ingredients in each, adding elements that complement the notes in wine, like fruit. Customers try to figure out what is inside. It is like an actual wine tasting.

What do you do on your day off?

I like to eat out. Basically, I like to eat sushi, sometimes unagi [eel]. I go to Harutaka in Ginza. On Sunday, I might go to Shimizu in Shinbashi. I think too much about food. With sushi, it’s simple. And if it’s my favorite place, it’s comfortable for me. I like shellfish, especially clam and abalone.

What are your earliest food memories?

When I was a kid, about four or five, I was playing with some cooking tools, like a veggie slicer, and I cut my finger. I was cutting a cucumber with a mandolin and didn’t realize I was cutting my finger. On my parents’ day off, we went to an unagi [eel] restaurant every Saturday. I liked it very much. Sometimes, I still go to this restaurant, it’s Adzumaya at Asagaya station not far from Koenji station where I grew up. My parents loved eel. If my parents found a restaurant and a food they really liked, they would always go back to that restaurant.

Who do you admire in the food world?

Grant Achatz of Alinea in Chicago, he overcame his illness. I can’t imagine. And his precision and skill are amazing.

Joshua Skenes of Saison in San Francisco. I visited his kitchen two years ago. He shared many ways of preserving food San Francisco style. He also only uses wood fire.

I respect Ferran Adrià and Juan Mari Arzak in San Sebastian; for all they have done for Spanish gastronomy.

What was one of your most valuable experiences traveling abroad?

When we opened this restaurant, we were interested in Spanish cuisine. We like the quality of the bright red gambas [prawns] at La Boqueria in Barcelona—a simple and very good product. Then when I visited Chicago and went to Alinea for the first time, I was impressed by Grant’s presentation and innovative ideas.

For you, what does it mean to be Japanese?

Nowadays I have many chances to go to other countries to meet many foreigners. After we travel and come back to Japan, I always feel that Japan is convenient, comfortable, and peaceful, with very tasty food as well.

Details are very important, and so is an interest in learning. In the restaurant industry in Japan, we are educated by older chefs who are very strict. Now, however, this is a changing a bit.

How do you think growing up in Japan informs your style and what are you trying to communicate?

We respect the seasons and ingredients. Because of my grandmother, I understand the seasons. I want the customer to understand where they are eating, what they are eating, and why they are eating it at that particular moment in time.For example, in Japan, we have Boys’ Day on May 5, represented by the carp-shaped flag. I express this annual event through my dish koi nobori [carp flag]. I want the customers to really know where they are, and what the season, in May, provides.

What do you like most about Tokyo, and what do you think makes it different from other cities and countries around the world?

I appreciate my suppliers in Tokyo, we can get anything easily. They can bring everything to us right away, even if it’s a difficult request. I don’t think that anywhere else in the world could be better than Tokyo for my restaurant.

If you could share a meal with anyone, who would it be?

I would like to invite my family: my grandmother, my parents, and my wife Akiko.

What is tough about your industry?

Working in the restaurant industry is very hard work, with long working hours. Chefs’ lives are shortened, once they become head chef. It’s a stressful life physically and mentally; head chefs are always busy. In other industries, you can work until old age. We are like athletes. But I would like to change this. I’d like staff to stay longer and stick with things longer; they are impatient. We need to change the dynamic in society, where now cooks get low pay for long hours. Maybe then, they will stop thinking it’s so hard. It’s very complicated.

What is one of your favorite films?

The Dark Knight Rises. I like this film because Batman never gives up. He is always hopeful and persistent.

Takazawa opened in 2005.

Sanyo Akasaka Bldg 2F, 3-5-2 Akasaka, Tokyo

  • Andrea Fazzari

Updated: Jun 8

"I am a shokunin!"

What is the origin of the word Sazenka?

SA = the meaning of tea which we improved upon

ZEN = spirit

KA = Chinese cuisine

I would like to innovate Chinese cuisine in Japan.

Because I cannot drink so much, I really like tea. And anyway, I believe that tea goes very well with my cuisine. Our mouths are delicate and we can easily appreciate the subtleties of tea. Plus tea is very healthy.

Why did you choose to pursue Chinese food?

When I was five years old I was fascinated by a Chinese restaurant. I lived in Taiwan for two years, in Taipei. You know, there is Japanese technique in Mandarin food.

I had studied in Taiwan, and Szechuan food is what I chose. Where I come from -Tochigi prefecture - there is no sea. The terroir there is similar to Szechuan landscape.

Here in Tokyo I studied at Nihon Ryorui from the age of 18 to 20. Then I studied Chinese food and worked in a Chinese restaurant for ten years - Azabu Choko. I would travel to China for work experience and so I learned even more about China. Then I worked in Ryugin Tokyo again for three years, and then Ryugin Taiwan for two years.

How is your food different from that of other chefs?

My Japanese technique and spirit, plus my

respect for the ingredients make my food different.

Did you feel at home in Taipei?

Yes, very much so, it’s my second home.

To you, what does it mean to be Japanese?

Japan is a a country made up of many islands. During the Jomon period we were all only Japanese, and during this time we hunted and foraged. In the subsequent period, the Yayoi period, many people came from China and we learned to make rice and vegetables. Then in the Asuka Period Japanese also started visiting China, learning about many other things including hashi and kanji - and also tea. And we improved upon all of these things. Kanji evolved into Hiragana, for example. Attention to details equals respect for people. We, as Japanese, have adapted and improved upon influences from other countries. The Japanese spirit is reflected in the lives of shokunin (artisans), which is also connected to Zen spirit. I am a shokunin!

What is your earliest food memory?

I remember the lazy susan in the Chinese restaurant I liked so much as a child. I loved to turn it. I remember Dan Dan noodles: the aroma, the sesame and chili pepper. It was my destiny to become a Chinese chef!

If you could eat with any three people who would they be?

Kukai - a Japanese Buddhist civil servant, engineer, scholar, poet, artist and calligrapher

Dogen - a Japanese Buddhist priest, writer, poet, philosopher during the Kamakura period

I met my business partner, Mr. Hayashi - who is the owner of Sazenka - at Azabu Choko. He was also working there.

Sazenka was designed by Design Studio Crow.

It has been awarded 3 Michelin Stars.

Sazenka 4-7-5 Minami Azabu, Minato, Tokyo +81-3-6874-0970