Interview: King of Iron Chefs Hiroyuki Sakai
When “Iron Chef” concluded its original Japanese run in 1999, it was Hiroyuki Sakai who emerged as “King of Iron Chefs” after defeating his fellow masters in the grand finale. The Kagoshima native owns several branches of La Rochelle in Japan, featuring fine French cuisine. I first met Chef Sakai at this year’s Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, where he prepared abalone with udon. On December 6, he visited the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, touring the Common Ground exhibition before serving as the guest of honor at an on-site lunch. I had the opportunity to ask him a few questions with the help of a translator.
Would you rather be a competitor or a judge on “Iron Chef?”
To fight. To compete.
How do you feel about the return of “Iron Chef” to Japan?
I think the new “Iron Chef” will provide a great opportunity for the next generation of chefs. As the pioneer of “Iron Chef,” those three chefs want to be able to give them as much support as possible, to give them opportunities.
What is the most recent dish that you created, and what was your inspiration and approach?
My cooking comes from tasting all different kinds of food, and that’s where I get my inspiration. I don’t have any specific plan, per se, from the beginning. After eating many dishes, I think, “Oh, I can tweak this and make it one of my dishes.” That’s how I develop my food. Cooking or cuisine is the same as a musician.
Did you play any sports in high school?
How do you stay active these days?
I go to the gym. Of course this morning as well. Perseverance is really important for a chef, and to be fit, so I intend to do that.
Is there anything you don’t enjoy eating?
What do you want to be best known for as a chef?
I want people to know that I enjoy my own life, and also working as a chef. I don’t like people who focus only on their work.