6 Pieces Of Advice From Nobu's Memoir Everyone Should Adopt
April 23, 2018 | BY Tien Chew
We've read chef Nobu Matsuhisa's engaging memoir and walked away feeling inspired and impressed. If you're into learning how a humble chef rose to own his own restaurant and hotel empire, we've taken six important lessons we learnt in his book that we believe could benefit everyone. Don't worry, reading this won't spoil the story for you.
A title taken straight from Nobu Matsuhisa’s memoirs, he praised the benefits of why working for a good-hearted individual is better than working for a famous company. Nobu’s first step to becoming a sushi chef took place at Matsuei-sushi, a modest restaurant with a master that he describes as a “good man”.
“I now know that the character of the people who work at the restaurant is more important than its size or reputation. I would rather be known as a good man than for my restaurant to be known for making money,” writes Nobu.
Nobu and his friend Sakai decided to go to The Osaka World Expo in 1970 but got cold feet. Instead, they went to Kurashiki in Okayama. There, his love for his craft led him to dine at a famous restaurant called Takoshin and a first encounter with his wife Yoko at an inn called Tsurugata.
The two didn’t hit it off at first and eventually went on their separate ways but destiny brought them back together when she came to Tokyo with one of Nobu’s friends for a visit. They soon started dating and were married the following year.
The moral of the story? Do what you love and good things will follow.
One of the biggest reasons for Nobu’s international success can be attributed to his attitude of ensuring customer satisfaction is always of top priority. Throughout his career, he would listen and implement different suggestions that he received from his diners.
As a chef, he could have simply ignored their requests. But due to his friendly and humble nature, he took those requests and advice, tweaked it to his own style, and implemented those new dishes in his menu. Because of this, the Nobu style of food eventually morphed into its own signature cuisine, one where people all around the world currently continue to enjoy.
After having a failed stint in Peru and Argentina, Nobu moved back to Japan with little to his name. When another chance arrived, he was given the opportunity to partner up with a well-known Japanese actor to open a new restaurant in Alaska.
For six months, he poured his heart and soul into the restaurant, yet despite his hard work, the restaurant unfortunately caught fire and burnt down after only 50 days of business.
Grief-stricken, he contemplated suicide before being eventually saved by his family. “It was Yoko who saved me. She never left my side. It was her belief in me that carried me through," he reveals. After some time, he decided to give it another try. “I’ll keep moving forward one step at the time, even if it’s just a millimetre a day”, said Nobu, a sentiment he still echoes till this day.
To make his comeback, Nobu travelled to Los Angeles and joined a small new restaurant called Mitsuwa after receiving an offer from a chef friend in America. There, he was employed under a stern but generous owner, who helped him set up his life in the city and subsequently put him in charge of his restaurant’s six-seater sushi bar.
Later, when Nobu was reunited with his family in America and they managed to obtain their green cards, his employer set him free to allow him to find his own path without any liability and he was immensely grateful to him.
In fact, all throughout the book, Nobu never once failed to show his appreciation to those who have helped him out at one point or another in his life. Which just goes to show that having good people in your life that you can rely on, even when times are tough, is just one part of living a successful life.
It was during his time in Los Angeles that Nobu would soon rise to stardom, and it all started when he began to experiment the skills and knowledge he had earned during his time in South America.
The first thing he tweaked was ceviche, changing its preparation and method and serving à la Nobu. This caught the attention of many Hispanics in the area, which was made even more attractive thanks to the Spanish he had picked up during his time in Peru and Argentina, and his popularity soon began to grow.
Today, Nobu is an empire, with restaurants and hotels under its name across the globe. If you're unfamiliar with the restaurant, you can head over to Nobu Kuala Lumpur for a drink and a some light bites before deciding to go straight for the omakase option.
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