I spent five years cooking in fine dining restaurants in the U.S., and yet I was not quite prepared for life as an apprentice in a Japanese kitchen.

The honorific language spoken, the vertical relationships observed and the traditional food ways preserved are much more intense than anything I had encountered in my several previous years in Japan. Linguistically, when I first started working in a small kappo- style restaurant in Osaka I suddenly found myself not having "to do" anything but rather "having the pleasure of letting someone allow me to do" even the simplest tasks.

The cuisine at the small Osaka kappo-ya is pure Japanese casual kaiseki, a style of food traditionally served in tiny restaurants fringing neighborhoods with high concentrations of teahouses and catering to the men who frequent these geisha stages.