A personal tribute to Tetsuya ...

22 March 2015

I recently read the fabulous article celebrating Tetsuya Wakuda’s Lifetime Achievement Award by Franz Scheurer in one of my favourite online newsletters - Australian Gourmet Pages. It moved me to pen my own tribute to a ground breaking, game changing chef that has remained humble despite all the accolades he has received over his career spanning more than 30 years.

I recently read the fabulous article celebrating Tetsuya Wakuda’s Lifetime Achievement Award by Franz Scheurer in one of my favourite online newsletters - Australian Gourmet Pages. It moved me to pen my own tribute to a ground breaking, game changing chef that has remained humble despite all the accolades he has received over his career spanning more than 30 years.It also made me reflect on how many personal and professional milestones I have personally shared with either the man himself or the restaurant.

Firstly, and most poignantly, Tetsuyas is where I took my wife, Sohani on our first date.  It was the 15th of December 1991 and I was suited up in chinos, a white silk shirt with a chain collar and tasselled loafers. My beautiful wife wore a brightly coloured striped dress (think liquorice all sort) and took my breath away.  Needless to say, the rest is history. It was simply the most perfect first date you could imagine for us and I am convinced it sealed the deal J

I still remember the dishes we enjoyed, including of course his signature ocean trout, we also devoured some incredible oysters from Pipe Clay Lagoon in Tasmania and a memorable Blue Cheese Bavarois served with Nashi Pear.  Perfection.

Since then, we have been back once a year, religiously, to celebrate that first date.  The outfits have improved but the restaurant and its atmosphere never needed to. It excelled every time. However it’s not just the food.  The tranquil space Tetsuya has created within the bustling centre of Sydney is extraordinary.  The minute you pass the iron gates, a calm comes across you and you know you are in for a truly memorable experience.  It fascinates me that diners sit for hours with no concept of the time that is passing by despite this crazy time anxious world we live in.

I was lucky enough to be introduced to Tetsuya early on in my Australian career and found him to be so generous with his time and advice.  We have worked together on a few projects over the years, most memorably a 4 chef’s gift box with Charmaine Solomon, Maggie Beer, Tetsuyas and Bitton.  Still I consider this to be one of my biggest achievements – simply being able to convince him and 2 other top Australian culinary icons to put their brands next to mine. I will forever be grateful that they gave me that opportunity.

I would imagine that many people reading this have had at least one strong memory forged at Tetsuyas.  To me, that’s what makes a restaurant an institution. It becomes not only a place for excellent food and service, but also a place where politicians make history, business men network, people fall in love and families gather.  It becomes part of the soul of a city.

Following is Franz’s article for your enjoyment and please, if you are at all interested in food or dining, make sure you subscribe to the Australian Gourmet Pages. He always writes with such knowledge, depth and respect. You can subscribe here  

http://www.classic.com.au/wizard/subs.htm

Australian Gourmet Pages Newsletter

News - Lifetime Achievement Award March 2015

Tetsuya Wakuda receives Lifetime Achievement Award at San Pellegrino Asia's 50 Best Restaurants Awards. Tetsuya Wakuda, one of Australia's most high profile chefs, has been recognised by his peers throughout Asia and the world, for his lifelong contribution to the world of gastronomy and has been awarded the Diners Club Lifetime Achievement award - Asia 2015. Born and raised in Japan, Tetsuya arrived in Australia in 1982 at the age of 22 with a limited knowledge of English and nothing more than a small suitcase. He also brought with him an obsessive interest in food and a quiet determination to open his own restaurant. 

Securing his first job as a junior kitchen hand, it was only a year before Tetsuya became a chef at Kinselas, under chef Tony Bilson, in Sydney. It was here that Tetsuya learned the classical French techniques thus forming his now renowned style of cooking - blending the purity of his native Japanese food culture with the techniques and style of classic French cuisine. "My aim was only ever to get a good job doing what I loved", explains Tetsuya, "I never had a grand master plan and I am quite humbled by this award. Like most chefs I only ever wanted to cook my own food, in my own way and I am thankful that people continue to enjoy that. Everyone in this industry knows that no one chef stands alone and I have been very lucky to have always had such a great team of people working with me". In 1989, after 6 years in a joint partnership in restaurant Ultimo's, Tetsuya finally realised his dream and opened Tetsuya's, his eponymous Sydney restaurant. After an incredible 26 years the award-winning establishment is still as popular as ever. Loved and respected by Sydneyites, Tetsuya's is recognised as an Australian classic by its constant stream of international food lovers.   In 2006 Tetsuya Wakuda was honoured as the first Sake ambassador outside of Japan, and in 2013 was acknowledged by the Japanese Government and awarded the esteemed 'Japan's Master of Cuisine', the first ever internationally based chef to do so. The chef's great love affair with Tasmania resulted in a formal role bestowed in 2003 as International Food and Beverage Ambassador. In addition to his ambassadorial role Tetsuya has personally financed and supported small producers on the island, creating new businesses in the food and beverage sector. He also actively supports local Tasmanian artists and craftsmen.   Tetsuya's has won a plethora of highly esteemed awards and has featured as a regular in San Pellegrino's Worlds 50 Best Restaurant Awards, since the list's inception in 2002. In 2010, Tetsuya Wakuda embarked upon a new culinary adventure with Waku Ghin, which he opened in The Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore. The restaurant demonstrates the continuing evolution of Tetsuya's unique culinary style and has enjoyed many remarkable accolades, including the restaurant's own rightful position in the top 50 of the World's 50 Best Restaurant list (currently number 9 in Asia).  This remarkable chef has quietly gained global respect from his peers all over the world, for his dedication and commitment to the hospitality industry. Chefs that have gone through his kitchen, and front of house staff that have delivered to his exacting standards, populate some of the most celebrated restaurants in the world.