The great rewards of patience and smiles

Chef Mitsuharu Tsumura, who goes by Micha, can be called the father of Nikkei cuisine, a fusion of Japanese technique with Peruvian ingredients. While it has existed for over a century, he made it a cuisine type. His restaurant Maido, in Lima, is currently #10 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list and #1 on 2019 Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list. Enthusiastic and passionate about his work, his restaurant, his friends and Peru, he spoke with Ann Hill, Director of Dining at Aspire Lifestyles to discuss what drives him to keep improving and expanding creatively.

Aspire Lifestyles:您希望全世界怎样认识您所在国家的美食和您餐厅的美食?

Mitsuharu(Micha)Tsumura: What’s interesting about Peruvian cuisine is the ingredients. We have chefs in Peru who discover new things each month that we use in our restaurants. From there it develops a need in the market for products that didn’t have value before. Nowadays you come to Lima and these products are in the supermarkets and eventually end up being exported. That’s our main goal – to show the world our products. My dream is to have Peruvian ingredients, such as chili peppers, used throughout the world, not just for Peruvian cuisine but that can be adapted to use in local cuisine, which is starting to happen. In the past when we traveled we had to take everything from Peru. Now there are purveyors around the world who can get you the products, which has really happened in just the past five years.

As for my cuisine, Nikkei is cuisine of the world, it’s not just a fusion of countries and not something that happened all of a sudden. Nikkei has been around for more than 100 years as the food that Japanese grandmothers used to cook, developed out of necessity. My role is to show the world that Nikkei cuisine was born and has the opportunity to remain and expand. The Peruvian restaurants that open around the world have elements of Nikkei cuisine and recipes on their menus such as ceviche and anticuchos skewers, which are the most popular that you see. One of the strongest influences on Peruvian cuisine is the Asian one – Chinese and Japanese, Right now we’re opening in Macau and will opening in Santiago. Right now we’re taking it easy but one but one day I would like to open a restaurant In the USA.

AL: One evening you get to take 5 chefs (present or past) to dinner at any restaurant in the world. Which chefs do you bring along with you and where do you take them (aside from your own restaurant)? Why those chefs and why that restaurant?

MT: That’s a very interesting question. We are very good friends with other Peruvian chefs so that’s a very hard question. Definitely I would go with Gaston (Acurio). I would really like to go with Fernan Adria and Albert, his brother. And Joan. But I’d also like to go with his brothers.

AL: Ok. We can say that the Brothers – The Adria Brothers and the Roca Brothers will count as one each.

MT: Also Virgilio (Martinez). There has been a big connection between the Roca Brothers who have been one of the biggest ambassadors of Peruvian cuisine in the world. For sure. The Roca Brothers and the Adria Brothers have really been the ones who spread the word in Europe when they came to Peru, that they fell in love with Peruvian cuisine and the country. We became really good friends. There’s a very nice connection. I would like to go with… hmmmm. Mauro (Colagreco) – he’s in France but from South America. Also Narasawa in Tokyo. I wouldn’t go to a restaurant. I would go to the beach and have a huge barbeque there. That would be perfect.

AL: Which restaurant, hotel or person or place most inspired your sense of hospitality?

MT: 我想肯定是纽约NoMad的Will和Daniel。我真的认为他们已经接待了一个新的水平。我在纽约的NoMad住过几次,感觉“哇,这真的发生了”。我来这里定期度过一个周末,它真的让我大吃一惊并激励着我。

AL: What has been one of your greatest lessons so far in your culinary career and how has it shaped you into the chef that you are today and how do you express that to your kitchen team?

MT: 这很简单但很难。这是我已经拥有的东西。我真的相信,对生活中有意义的事情的耐心是你继续做自己喜欢的事情的唯一方式。人们急于求得好位置。我学到的是,即使事情进展不顺利,也要继续努力。一开始它可能很难,人们最终会放弃。也许你在正确的地方,但你必须耐心等待。每个人都想赶。

A good example is rice. At the beginning I was making rice. People ask me the recipe for making sushi rice. There is no recipe because it depends on the water that you’re using, the rice, the kind of vinegar, the sugar, the altitude you’re in. I actually gave a speech recently about technology, hybrid food and creativity – what technology can do and what it cannot do. Some of the things it couldn’t do was make rice perfectly because there are some things that need sensitivity. The only way to understand what I’m talking about is when you make rice everyday, everyday, everyday. In the restaurant, you make one thing every day of your life, nobody is going to be able to make it better than you because you’re focused on that one thing, making it as good or better everyday. But nothing is perfect. Everything can improve. Creativity wouldn’t be as powerful as it is today if people didn’t strive to make things better. So not being satisfied by a good result is part of making your dreams come true. I’m trying to make it different and better all the time. Even how talented you are, how many things you know, smart you are, you make mistakes.


MT: I did it already! Juan Riviera. He’s an icon in Peru. One of the greatest singers in the world for me. I grew up with his music. The way he sings; his messages. The day he was in Peru giving a concert, he came to my restaurant, but I was in New York. When they told me Riviera was there, I said “WHAT? He’s in Lima and I’m in New York? No way!” So he came and had the tasting menu. That night about midnight I received a call from my chef who said that Riviera had a great time at the restaurant and mentioned that they were leaving the next morning to go do another concert and would like to have food catered for the plane. I said ‘of course, what time do they leave?’ My manager told me they needed to pick up food by 10am. I talked to my chefs and told them to make the same menu that the group had for dinner to have for lunch on the plane. Years went by and all of a sudden one of my managers said ‘Riviera is in town he wants to come and to meet you’. And I wanted to meet him – he’s the most famous person in the country! He came and I did a dinner for him.

AL: Do your friends and family cook for you?

MT: Yes but not very often. My mother does a lot. My friends do. Many of my friends love to eat and love to entertain but they call and ask ‘how do you do this and how do you do that?’ Many people in Peru love to cook and they’re always trying to experiment. Friends I’ve known for 25 years, we went to school together so it’s a different connection. I always say the best thing is to cook for others, to make people happy. There’s nothing better than someone cooking for you.

AL: How has W50B changed life for self and team?

MT: 关于我的团队,当然这是激励。我相信对我们来说,由于这个概念,我们必须在一开始就努力工作。在我们开设Maido之前,有秘鲁美食或日本料理。没有人使用“Nikkei”这个词或概念。没有餐厅这么做,所以当我们这样做时,我们是第一个。人们需要明白,即使日经指数存在,也没有餐厅或厨师有这个概念。当我们开始餐厅不满。这是新的。我们不是日本人,我们不是秘鲁人100%。我们没有专注于寿司。人们都在谈寿司,寿司,寿司。我们受到启发,创造出不常见的新事物,所以有时候你会为表彰而工作,有时候你会努力让自己和人们快乐。你做饭是因为你想给你的顾客带来快乐。这是成为厨师的主要动机。看不到顾客脸上的笑容是无法描述的。它比其他任何东西都好。钱没关系。如今人们来自世界各地,你意识到人们了解你在做什么,喜欢它。我们正试图从安第斯山脉和亚马逊带来东西来创造新的日经美食。也许我们错了,它可能无法解决。最棒的是我们真的很喜欢它。这家餐厅非常有趣。我们最近有一条来自亚马逊的巨型鱼--285磅。它几乎像一头牛。我们提交了它。鳞片可以用作珠宝。我们发现了许多你以前从未见过的令人难以置信的东西。使用亚马逊的食材,日经美食还有更多的活动。亚马逊日经指数。我一直在大会上谈论亚马逊的成分,所以我希望他们能在世界各地成名。