Tast of Japan

Close Up Chef Noka Masahiko

Close Up Chef Noka Masahiko

Profile:2005~ Head Chef of Japanese restaurant Sagano at New World Millenium Hong Kong Hotel (aka. Hotel Nikko Hong Kong)


Interview


Q:What made you become a chef; what’s the back story?
A:After graduating from high school, I wanted to specialize in something, so I decided to go with cooking.
Q:Do you have any partiality to cooking Japanese food?
A:Bringing out and enhancing the flavors of each ingredient and creating a seasonal menu that projects the four seasons of Japan.
Q:Do you have any difficulties cooking Japanese food in Hong Kong? Do you have to employ any creative techniques?
A:Improving the seasoning, setting the dish and table, and other things to satisfy the locals’ appetite. With regards to food presentation, I used to add lots of details to the food in Kyoto style. However, due to the weak pursuit of aesthetic appeal in food presentation in Hong Kong, I did not receive satisfactory results. I then realized that the culinary techniques I built up in Kyoto would simply become only for my own benefit in Hong Kong, hence I used 2 years to change my methods. Nonetheless, food begins from its visual presentation, so I have been putting effort into the presentation of each dish while allowing for the raw ingredients’ flavor to shine. With regards to taste, I will not serve anything I myself do not accept, so I have been serving a Japanese taste without changing its foundation.
Q:How is the customer’s reaction towards Japanese food?
A:The responses to Japanese cuisine are excellent. The number of people going to Japan for vacation and their demand for Japanese dishes have increased. I’ve been often asked questions such as where the ingredients came from, and why those locations were chosen; questions that wouldn’t normally be asked in Japan. It shows that Hong Kong people have become more demanding on ingredients.
Q:What do you want your restaurant to be in the future? What kind of challenges do you expect?
A:I would like my restaurant to be loved even more by the locals, and attempt using ingredients I have never used before.
Although Hong Kong people have become more strict with their gourmet reviews, while I have been trying to overcome the difficulty and reality of being outside of Japan, I am still told my food is just as delicious as what they had eaten in Japan, or even more delicious, which would make me happier than ever.

Q:What are the circumstances to your working abroad?
A:Undertaking training from the best masters in Kyoto culinary, I performed my skills as a chef in Hotel Nikko Princess Kyoto. One occasion, I was invited to be the Head Chef of the former Hotel Nikko Hongkong (the current New World Millennium Hong Kong Hotel). Until then, I had never thought of working overseas, and while I had a path to further continue pursuing Japanese cuisine locally, I went against the objections around me and decided to challenge myself abroad.
Q:Are you fastidious, using only traditional ingredients or would you consider unique local ingredients?
A:Japan’s seasonal ingredients. I want to show people the four seasons of Japan which cannot be experienced in Hong Kong.
Q:What do you want to convey through Japanese cuisine?
A:The greatness of Japanese ingredients. In terms of culinary safety and quality, I think Japanese ingredients are the best in the world. My duty is to bring out the flavor of these raw ingredients to its maximum potential.
Q:Why do you think the people in the world are fascinated about Japanese food today?
A:I think it is because of Japan’s high quality of ingredients, as well as Japanese cuisine is considered healthy and exudes flavours of the raw ingredients, thus being rated favorably.
Q:Any message to people in the world?
A:I would like people to know more about the greatness of Japan through Japanese cuisine.
Compared to a decade ago, the number of people going to Japan, as well as the number of opportunities to taste authentic Japanese cuisine has increased. Through my work, I would like to continue sharing not just the cuisine, but also the great things about Japan, for example, its culture.

Profile


Birthday(age): October 16th, 1962 (54)
Birthplace: Kyoto
1996 ~ 2005 Assistant Head Chef of Japanese restaurant called Sagano in Hotel Nikko Princess Kyoto
2005 ~ Head Chef of Japanese restaurant Sagano at New World Millenium Hong Kong Hotel (aka. Hotel Nikko Hong Kong)