Being an enthusiastic consumer of home cooking, or sharing your home with a skilled culinarian, is no guarantee that you'll ever be able to cook decent food for yourself. Three good meals a day sometimes only serve to make one a good eater.

My first years in Japan were divided between living in homestay situations and in dormitories. Somehow I made it through those many years and thousands of meals without ever learning how to make the everyday food on the plate in front of me. Sure, I could throw together a cold noodle somen party in the summer, or do some kind of nabe (hotpot) in the cold winter months, but basically I was helpless in a Japanese kitchen.

Everything changed when I left academia and put on a white chef's coat. I came back to Japan, picked up a knife and began my training as a Japanese chef.