There may be a myriad of top-notch chefs from Japan who have set up shop here in Singapore, but some of them have clearly managed to stand head and shoulders above the rest. While some were already renowned before coming to our shores, others gained a loyal following through sheer proof of their culinary chops. Here are the names of some who have earned their accolades.
Tetsuya Wakuda, chef at Marina Bay Sands’ hot ticket Japanese restaurant Waku Ghin, is best known for his world famous namesake establishment Tetsuya in Sydney. He first arrived in the Australian city from Hamamatsu — a town in Honshu in the Shizuoka prefecture — at the age of 22. He got a job at eatery Fishwives in Surry Hills and soon fell in love with the food and the country. Slowly working his way up, he eventually became one of the best known chefs Down Under. He then opened Waku Ghin here in 2010, which won a star in Singapore’s first-ever Michelin guide in July 2016.
Kenjiro Hashida (fondly known as Hatch) helms the kitchen of omakase fine dining establishment Hashida Sushi Singapore, which has recently undergone a relocation and facelift. Hatch, having trained under his father who is one of Japan’s master sushi chefs, begin his training as soon as he was old enough to step into the restaurant at age 12. He recalls his father training his palate by constantly having surprise blind tastings with a little monetary reward given if Hatch guessed the food correctly. After deciding to further his career as a sushi chef, he worked tirelessly alongside his father full-time. Despite many offers to set up shop in USA and Shanghai, he chose Singapore for its exciting mix of cultures and a robust dining scene.
Helming the space made famous by filmmaker Eric Khoo’s Mee Pok Man (1995) is Asai Masashi, the mastermind behind Bincho at Hua Bee. He moved to Singapore 14 years ago looking for new experiences, after training at the well-known Abeno Tsuji Culinary Institute and having worked at establishments in Hyogo, Osaka and Kyoto. Masashi’s cooking style here is influenced heavily from growing up in the Hyogo Prefecture, an area known for quality produce. That is why the cuisine at Bincho has a light touch and avoids heavy seasoning to allow the natural flavor of food to shine.
It’s not surprising how Kazuhiro Hamamoto got onto the food scene, especially since he’s been religiously following the Japanese television cooking show Iron Chef, produced by Fuji Television, since he was 12 years old. Naturally, he started working at a Japanese restaurant in his teenage years and enrolled himself to Kyoto’s culinary arts college at 17. There, he worked at various high-end establishments before deciding to hit the international culinary scene to broaden his skills and experience, and has since been in Singapore for the past eight years. He moved here because he landed himself a job at the prestigious Waku Ghin before helming Ki-Sho. Equipped with the skills and knowledge of Kyoto cuisine, he instils his own personal touches in terms of taste and presentation to make them truly unique to Ki-Sho.
Hal Yamashita was born in a port city in Kobe. The confluence of cultures in his hometown meant Yamashita was exposed to spices, scents and food produce from all over the world. From a young age, he enjoyed tasting new food and recreating dishes for himself. His early exposure to global influences helped him develop a distinct brand of nouvelle Japanese cuisine. He now helms numerous award winning restaurants including Nadaban Dining in Kobe and Hal Yamashita in Tokyo, and of course Syun, located at Singapore’s Resorts World Sentosa. Here, his dishes still focus on seasonal produce sourced near his hometown such as from Awaji Island and Tanba.