Congratulations! Tenku RyuGin retained its two stars in the Hong Kong and Macau Michelin Guide for 2015. "Yes, I'm very pleased and I thank chef de cuisine Hideaki Sato, sous chef Hidemichi Seki and manager Hiromi Takano for their hard work. I usually come to Hong Kong four times a year but this year it has been only once because I was busy with our newest restaurant, in Taipei [which opened last month]. So I have kept in touch with chef Hideaki often through Skype."
Is it true you started cooking to impress your mother? "When I was 11 years old, I learned how to cook in school and the first meal we made was a simple Japanese dish of simmered vegetables with stewed beef and rice. I saved to have enough money to go to the grocery store to buy the ingredients and then made it for my mum and waited for her to come back home. She was very impressed.
"I helped my mother with the cooking every day, so I didn't have time to play, which is why I hated cooking at first. But when I made dinner for her and saw how happy she was, it was then I understood why she worked so hard in the kitchen. She congratulated me on my skills and said I had improved. That's why I feel happy when people enjoy my food."
Why do you use modern culinary techniques to create your multi-course kaiseki menu? "I've been doing it for 11 years now and I don't think of it so much as creating something no one else has created, rather I think about how to get the best flavours, crispiness and textures out of an ingredient. I used to make a variety of dishes, some relying on modern techniques, but now I am more concerned about respecting the ingredients."
What should we be eating this winter? "In Japan, there's Matsuba crab, which is only available in winter, and game, such as wild duck. It's best not to shoot [the ducks] because then the blood is lost, which affects the meat. Best to have the animal intact and then strangle it. And another thing to eat in winter is fugu - blowfish, it's poisonous!"
What's your favourite ingredient? "I like Hong Kong chicken. I think it's the best chicken in the world right now. For our recent gala dinner, to celebrate retaining the two Michelin stars at Tenku RyuGin, we prepared charcoal grilled chicken, which is a simple dish. I want to experiment more with the chicken here next time because we can't get this in Japan."
You once put an eel under a CT scanner to examine its anatomy. Why did you do that? "I did a demonstration of that back in 2005, at the International Chefs Congress. I wanted to know exactly where all the bones were located to best prepare an eel soup. Eels have lots of bones and I wanted to show that they are at an angle, so the best way to cut it is to slant the knife."
What do you cook at home? "I don't cook at home - I live by myself and like to cook only for other people, not for myself."
What is your favourite food? "My preference is sushi and, depending on the season, I like to eat shellfish, not just lobster and crabs, but also clams."
Outside of the kitchen, what are your hobbies? "I always think about the kitchen - I have no other passion or hobbies because I don't have much time."