All great food begins with perfect dashi (stock).

Dashi takes time, dashi takes patience and dashi takes effort. But if prepared with care, as taught to me by my mentor, chef Toshikatsu Osako, dashi will take its unselfish place in the all-present background and all your food will shine.

By 9:30 a.m. I'm up and shopping at Kuromon market. Like a long line of young cooks have done for the last umpteen years, I buy one day's worth of just-picked vegetables, crisp pickles, dependable sundries and a scrap of fish or meat to be coaxed into a meal to feed myself, the chef and his wife.