People | 20 QUESTIONS

Hideo Furusawa: Toward the shining light of French cooking

by Claire Williamson

Staff Writer

Name: Hideo Furusawa
Age: 40
Nationality: Japanese
Occupation: Chef at Le Favori
Likes: Nattō (fermented soybeans)
Dislikes: Nothing in particular


1. When and why did you first become a chef? I became a chef when I was 28. Compared to other chefs, it wasn’t that I particularly liked cooking to begin with, or had a particular reason I wanted to become a chef. But I liked creating things and bringing things out into the world, and that (desire) unexpectedly manifested itself as cooking.

2. Why did you decide to work in France? I had the desire to visit someplace new. At that time, at kitchens in Japan that made French food, seniority was determined by how long you had worked there, and I felt it was a cramped environment to work in. In order to improve my knowledge of French cooking and work together with truly great French chefs, I wanted to go to the origin (of French cooking) and hone my skills.

3. Did anything surprise you when you first arrived there? How assertive and powerful everyone was, and how regulated the working environment was.

4. Do you have a chef you admire? Alain Ducasse. I am the chef I am today because I met him and learned about his philosophy of cooking.

5. Where do you get inspiration for new dishes? I run, go to the gym or move my body. Otherwise, I often go to museums or other places where the environment is different from cooking and get inspiration there.

6. You’ve described your style of cooking as one that “reinforces ingredients.” What do you mean by that? To bring out the maximum potential of ingredients through sauces and spices and, furthermore, to bring out a synergy between ingredients by finding flavors that suit them.

7. What’s your favorite word or phrase in French?Vers la lumiere,” which is a phrase I coined that means “toward the way light shines.”

8. Name a French custom or expression that should be exported and why? The respect given to French food culture and chefs. In Japan, people who work in the food and drink world are still looked down on.

9. In your kitchen, what’s your most prized possession? Everything in my kitchen is a tool of my trade, so they’re all important. But the most important is probably my knife. Other aspects I think are valuable are talent and teamwork.

10. What are your thoughts on how to best promote food sustainability? I think that it’s important to create conditions that are beneficial to everything: the earth, environment, ingredients and human beings. No matter how skilled a chef you are, if you don’t have good ingredients you can’t make good food, and if the environment isn’t good you can’t produce good ingredients. I think taking care of the environment is good for everything.

11. In French, “le favori” means “favorite.” How do you express that sentiment in your restaurant? By striving to ensure that each and every customer that comes to my restaurant has a unique experience through ambience, food and hospitality. I keep those things in mind every day when carefully selecting ingredients and preparing dishes.

12. Are there any differences in kitchen culture between Japan and France? The fact that (in both Japanese and French kitchens) people like cooking doesn’t change, but there are various aspects where the nuances are different.

13. What do you make for yourself when you don’t really feel like cooking? I eat tsukemono (Japanese pickled vegetables), nattō and tofu.

14. Do you have any recommendations for books or movies about chefs? Book-wise, chef Alain Ducasse’s “Grand Livre de Cuisine: Alain Ducasse’s Culinary Encyclopedia.” I don’t really watch movies about restaurants, but recently I watched “Burnt.”

15. What three things do you always have in your fridge? Niboshi (small, crunchy dried sardine) pickles, nattō and yogurt.

16. If you were on the UNESCO World Heritage selection committee, what would you nominate? Japan’s shitamachi (downtown). Things are evolving, and Tokyo is also changing. Shitamachi still have a “gold old days” vibe and you can still feel vestiges of bygone eras.

17. If you were on a deserted island, what three items would you absolutely have to bring with you? Fire, a knife and water.

18. You’ve got 30 minutes to kill. What are you going to do with that time? Go drinking with my best friends or laugh together while talking about stupid things.

19. What’s one thing you’re good at that nobody knows about? That I can fall asleep anywhere.

20. Do you have any advice for someone who wants to be a chef? Be crazy in a good way.

For more information about Le Favori, visit lefavori.jp.