From 2002 to 2005, I lived on the Island of Hokkaido in Japan, because Michel Bras asked me to be the Head chef, the Director as well as the Manager of his restaurant called Michel Bras Toya-Japan. The cuisine, service, decoration, philosophy and spirit of the restaurant: everything should be in the image of a true French restaurant. Under exceptional conditions, I was offered a unique experience: to live and work in Japan. Parallel to my work, I was immersed in a sophisticated society that is open to whatever the world has to offer, eager to discover other cultures and cuisines from all over the world. I find in this country and in the organization of my functions, an extraordinary field of learning, which allows me to diversify my inspirations and thus maintaining my cuisine.
In two years, I guided my project beyond my expectations, the restaurant "Michel Bras Toya - Japan" became one of the most renowned dining area of the Archipelago. A shared success with my devoted and passionate team.
I lived there for three years and I return regularly, because everything fascinates me there, but not everything pleases me. I still keep customs, ways of preparing a dish, the desire for quality service and the quest for beauty in everything. In France, if gourmet delicacies are popular, then, in Japan, it is eminently aristocratic and therefore very refined. There, I learned how to make broth; the finesse, the correctness, the rigor and I appreciated this famous ‘5th flavour’ that I find to be different in the French cuisine.
A deep desire since my childhood days to live by the sea. A harbour with welcoming facades that docks multi-coloured fishing boats. The rhythm of the tides, the air of the open sea: an exotic fragrance which helps you to always have new ideas. With my wife, Delphine and my daughter, we decided that this trip required a break, a pause and then, Sa Qua Na was born. A restaurant that resembles us, small and cosy with a Japanese name that means fish and it contains the three pillars of our daily requirements: flavour, quality and nature.
It is a country that has touched me particularly, because the people are either getting out of or living under difficult conditions, but they know how to draw beauty and energy. I always appreciated the landscapes, kindness of people, food, diversity and colours everywhere. And then there is Congee, this delicious rice soup gave me ideas, but especially since I have been feasting on it for days!
From the first time, I was amazed by this country. I liked everything: the people, the light, the way of life, the architecture etc. We were doing a long mountain bike tour on the Atlas with the Bras’ family and Mohammed who was our guide. He restored our strength by making us plunge our hands into a plastic bag filled with peanuts, dried fruit and spices ... A blend of chance along with a sweet, salty and spicy blend: a pleasant mixture of new tastes, ones that assembled, definitively marked my memory! Immediately, this mixture made me want cod cooked in Moroccan spices. Even today, I imagine dishes based on this memory as a dessert called Destination Morocco which plays with the crust pastry, pistachio, honey, apple…
Japan, beautiful down to the smallest detail ...On the corner of a street, the eyes stop, fascinated by the slightest details of everyday life, refined and moving.
Many fish in Vietnam, fresh or dried, of species that I totally ignored, of flavours that confuse me
Incredible restaurant dedicated to noodles, Japanese pasta has a texture so soft, that I enjoyed tasting the infinite variety available in Japan!
La poésie des mots dans le vent du Japon
The first time I went to Japan was in 1998 with Masaaki. I was 26 years old and he invited me to go with him there for 3 weeks. It was my first big trip, I was completely lost in a bistro with his friends. He ordered a lot of dishes for me, but I did not know how to eat with chopsticks. And then, there was that grilled fish, Sanma. A bit like grilled mackerel, but so much better, with an extraordinary salt flavour and a trickle of soy sauce. It was by tasting the Sanma that I understood the movement of the chopsticks, a gesture that allows you to respect the fish, which compels delicacy...
And then there is Congee, this delicious rice soup gave me ideas, but especially since I have been feasting on it for days!