SENDAI – A month after the March 2011 earthquake, Kazunori Ikeda, 36, decided to leave Paris to open a store in Sendai and sell sweets made with local strawberries to promote the rebuilding of his hometown.
The owner of Kazunori Ikeda Individuel uses strawberries from the two Miyagi towns of Watari and Yamamoto not just to support local farmers, but because “the quality of strawberries there is just great and they are good for sweets.”
When he was a kid, Ikeda’s family ran a traditional sweets shop in the southern Miyagi town of Marumori. He decided to become a patissier of Western sweets when he was in the third year of senior high school.
“I wanted to do nice things for my parents and thought a pastry shop would probably attract women and children as well and would flourish,” he said.
Ikeda said that after finishing his studies at a vocational school in Tokyo, he started working at a prestigious pastry shop in a bid to become Japan’s top pastry chef.
Of the six who joined the store the same year, Ikeda was the only one who endured the hard routine of working from 5 a.m. through midnight to remain at the store three years later.
Ikeda was 24 when he left for Paris. Hoping to develop a French “tongue,” he began eating six meals a day and consequently put on more than 30 kg. Just as he was about to open a shop there, however, the quake struck his hometown on March 11.