I was lucky enough to attend the excellent Hyper Japan festival this past weekend in London's East End and had a rare opportunity to talk to Gohei Kishi, Head of Asian Concepts across the Gordon Ramsay Group, based at maze in Mayfair. Gohei's role has given him a unique perspective on both classic French and Japanese cuisine and I spent time asking him about flavour combinations, Gordon's Ramsay's influence and much more!
All answers by Gohei Kishi
How would you describe your particular style of sushi?
I have a Japanese background but I was born in France and when I came to London to work at maze I used my knowledge of Japanese techniques combined with a modern approach to suit the European palate.
I notice you use a lot of aromatics such as flowers in your cooking. Can you tell me a bit more about what you use and if it varies depending on the type of fish?
I don't really use a lot of flowers except in garnishes. The main aromatic I use is a flower called a hanaho hojiso from the Shiso leaf and the Shiso leaf is a Japanese herb very unique for it's distinctive flavour.
Can you describe its flavour?
It's very hard! It's as fresh as mint but as tasty as basil but completely different (laughs). It's very fragrant and very fresh and goes very well with the fish.
Can you tell me about any particularly interesting flavour combinations you have come up with?
At work I make my own soy sauce; I don't brew it, but marinate Bonito flakes with sake, kombu, mirin and soy sauce and leave to infuse over a minimum of 3 days. Because it has sake and mirin it is less salty and more umami and full of flavour.
I want to learn how to make sushi. What are the most essential basics I need to know?
You know, I get a lot of this question! Sushi is not that different from any other type of cuisine; you just need a little bit more expertise. You need to know how to cook the rice properly, how to use soy sauce, the flavours, how to get fresh fish. Japanese food is based on a minimal philosophy so you need to know how to get the most from your ingredients.
Can you tell me how the French style influences your cooking?
maze restaurant where I work is a French restaurant so the system is all French. We don't have it like in Japan where we get an order and make it, it's pretty much to share [the preparation]. The way of serving the sushi also changes and I use a lot of techniques I had never used before.
What's the most technical skill you had to learn as a chef?
As a sushi chef the most technical skill is the knife skills. This is very very important especially in a sushi restaurant because how you cut the meat is important, how you cut the vegetables is important. Also, it's not about mastering one technique, but various techniques and combining them all to make one dish.
How much influence does Gordon have on your cooking?
We do talk a lot about the food and I do get a lot of comments. We've been led to create the menus and at the tasting he tells us what is good, what's not and what he wants. His knowledge is far better than mine because he's travelling all around the world and eating in all these restaurants and he's bringing all this knowledge back and sharing it with us . We learn a lot from him all the time.
What are people's most common misconceptions about sushi?
Ah woah! I could talk a lot! Sushi is not only raw fish. Everything that is Japanese is not only sushi. And sushi is not about the roll, it is about the quality of the fish and the rice that goes with it.
And if you want to see Gohei make his incredible sushi in person, he works at maze: 10 - 13 Grosvenor Square, London, W1K 6JP
Images copyright Gordon Ramsey Group