********** Yoshinori Ishii Executive chef of Japanese restaurant UMU in London ******************

------------------ 英国の日本料理店 UMU 総料理長 石井義典 のつれづれなる話 ------------

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Anagama Project at oxford universityオックスフォード大学穴窯プロジェクト

‘Anagama Project’ began 2 years ago within the campus of The University of Oxford, as a collaborative project between the University, Whichford Pottery and the city of Bizen.

The Britain’s ceramic art has always taken a dissimilar course of development to those of Asian countries, and since firing processes has mostly shifted to electric and gas methods in modern days, a traditional group work of firing a long period of time by firewood in a huge kiln is now rarely practiced to my knowledge. While few individual potters still utilizing small hole kilns may still exist in Ameican and Western worlds, an idea for British and Japanese organizations and teams to come together and jointly bring back a disappearing tradition was fascinating, and thanks to my friendship with the key member of the project Mr. Kazuya Ishida, I lightly took part from the 1st year.

What especially appealed to me were the facts that; 1. the project employs Bizen techniques, my favourite out of all Japanese potteries, and takes place in the country of residence, as a collaboration between the two countries, 2. the project carries a target to provide British youths and Japanese artists a point of Interactions and communications, 3. by logging lifeless trees from the woods within the campus and using them as firewood, the long-abandoned woods is given new means to receive care and maintenance, and 4. I am given the opportunity to learn techniques at a whole new dimension for the cultural work I devoted myself since I had moved to the Britain.

It was last September, Mr. Ishida brought to my attention that the project was experiencing difficulties financially, and we immediately came to agreements that the restaurant will fund the project, and in return, I will have my own pieces to be included in for firing and finished at the site. 

Therefore, this winter I spent all my time after work and all Sundays for creating pieces, in the end, the total count came to as close as 300. Mostly made with clay sent over from Cornwall, but partially used the natural clay I dug up with Mr. Ishida with our own hands in Devon, and I was deeply excited to see the completed works.

The pieces were brought out from London to the site in the beginning of May, the kiln was loaded over 5 days in the second week, and the high-firing stage followed which required full-time attentions, 24 hours a day for consecutive 8 days.  Sadly I could not help with firing due to my schedule at the restaurant, however the logs were thrown in constantly in turns by Mr. Ishida, his friend and Bizen artist Mr. Takuma Takigawa, Jim from Whichford Pottery and a group of volunteers who encircle the University of Oxford.

The 7th day of the firing stage fell on Saturday, and I headed out there to try “Hikidashi”, a technique Mr. Ishida had been recommending me to try out. “Hikidashi” takes place when the temperature in the kiln is at the highest towards the end of the firing process, by inserting an iron pipe through the fire door to pull out pieces and rapidly cooling them down in rice hulls, which leads the finish to have significant difference from ones cooled naturally. Mr. Ishida discovered at a previous firing the clay from Devon develops unique lustre and distinctive deep black hue by going through this method, and we decided to perform together this time around. When I was throwing logs into a framing kiln at 1,250 degrees, or unloading the scarlet coloured pieces, I peeped into the kiln to see various colours streamed through a blaze, a beautifully haunting image that led me to shed a tear.

A great number of people come together, and while never forgetting to listen to the nature, together bring works of art which continues from ancient time into modern society, and continue to impress audiences; Ceramic arts in its original form is overwhelmingly moving. 

I drove a truck out to pick up the finished pieces after a week of cooling period following the firing stage. All staff at the restaurant lent in hands, cleaned and polished piece by piece, and all of them are now used to entertain guests, playing important parts of experience at Umu.

2年前にオックスフォード大学の敷地内に、大学、Whichford potteryと備前市が提携して”Anagama project”が始まりまりました。



プロジェクトが資金繰りで困っているという話を石田君から聞いたのは去年の9月頃、それでは当社がそれを補助し、代わりに私が作った作品を焼成してもらうということで話はすぐに決まりました。そのためにこの冬は毎日仕事が終わってからとお店が休みの日曜日に食器を作り続け、約300個が出来ました。ほとんどはCornwallから送ってもらった土を使いましたが、一部は Devonで石田君と自ら掘った自然の土をそのまま使って作った物で焼き上がりがとても楽しみでした。

5月始めに作品をロンドンから運び、第二週から約5日間をかけて窯詰め、そのあと8日間、24時間体制で焼成が行われました。私はお店があるので焼成を手伝うことは出来ませんでしたが、石田君とその友人である備前作家の瀧川卓馬さん、Witchford potteryJimOxford 大学を取り巻くボランティアの方々の手で交代で常に薪をくべ続けられました。




Thursday, 8 June 2017

London craft week 2017 ロンドンクラフトウィーク

This year, Umu participated in the most grand crafts and arts festival in London, an annual London Craft Week for the first time. Whether cooking is a form of craft or art is a rhetorical question that is repeatedly asked over many generations, and while the question remains somewhat insignificant to me, what becomes more and more apparent as I pursue cookery and delighting guests experience is that products of crafts and arts are essential culinary accompaniments. My activities in London has caught eyes of the organizers and subsequently received an offer to host the event.

Artists and creators of the culinary ‘partners’ inspire me to the core with their perpetual commitment in challenge to realise globally accepted form of their fields, much like how I pursue cookery. To be well-received within Japan and on different soils don’t necessarily reflect each other. At the same time, over-pursuing oversea recognitions can result in losing Japanese identity. An ability to manage such balance, and to create a piece that delivers practical and visual joys indiscriminately to anybody who come in contact, calls for certain amount of experiences.
Individuals who restlessly devote their thoughts in the such search for balance naturally pull each other closer, and I’ve had pleasure coming to know 2 great artists since I began cooking in London, and with their help, we designed this event as an introduction to Japanese culture through Kaiseki cuisine; A privileged collaboration with ceramic works of Mr. Kazuya Ishiada, a potter born to a family of Bizen artists and currently a leader of the Japanese team in a joint project between the Oxford University and a group of Bizen artists, and pieces of Edo Kiriko by Mr. Toru Horiguchi, now a symbolic figure to the art of cut glassware from Edo period. Sadly Mr. Horiguchi could not be present on the day of the event, but luckily for us, Ms. Mari Lamb, his representative in London joined us.
Started off with presentations by Mr. Ishida and Ms. Lamb, we served 9-course menu with Sake pairing, utilizing the both artists’ dishware and Sake vessels as well as my own works and antiques form private collection, giving narrative to each course and the pairing piece. Also by incorporating other forms of Japanese culture into the course, such as a woodblock print, calligraphy and Ikebana (flower arrangement) presented in a piece from Mr. Ishida, I was confident we successfully demonstrated Kaiseki cuisine as an cultural congregation in association with many forms of Japanese culture.
The guests who attended, and the two who provided fascinating and intelligible presentation and the pieces, and our own staff; I am filled with gratitude that we all came together and shared this enjoyable moment. 
そんなことを常に考え、追求している人同士は自然と引き合うもので、私がロンドンで料理を始めてから縁あって出会うことが出来、その後も長いお付き合いをさせていただいている2人の作家さんにも今回は参加してもらい、懐石料理を通して日本の文化を紹介するというイベントにしました。備前作家の家系の生まれで、現在はオックスフォード大学と備前焼きの共同プロジェクトを日本側チームリーダーとして活躍する石田和也氏の陶器作品と、江戸切子を今や代表する作家である堀口徹氏とのコラボレーションです。残念ながら堀口氏はスケジュール上当日は参加できませんでしたが、ロンドンで彼の作品を広められているMari Lambさんが代わりに参加してくださいました。

Saturday, 6 May 2017

The International Chef Showcase マカオでのロバートパーカー、ミシュランアジア主催の料理イベント

I went to participate in The International Chef Showcase, a gourmet and wine festival held in Macau, co-hosted by Michelin Asia and Robert Parker. Pairing up with a local restaurant, my part in the event was to serve Kaiseki cuisine paired with wine for 50 guests per day over the course of 4 days. The preparation began as early as last summer; all factors imaginable are taken into consideration, from arrangements of ingredients to a course of service.

The venue was a branch of Tokyo’s renowned Tempura restaurant, Tenmasa, situated in Altria Hotel. Both sides, the venue and myself, coming from Japanese restaurant background allowed the planning to move forward smoothly from negotiation stage.

The Executive Chef Noguchi and Sous Chef Ishii, in fact all staff on site was very helpful, and thanks to all the supports, event concluded with great success. We could utilize Japanese fish and local ingredients which are unobtainable in UK, and I was once again reminded of wide selection of ingredients and high standard professionals available in Asia.

We received a feedback from the Hotel side on insufficiency of total volume of food and had to make an impromptu adjustment, which was a situation I faced for the first time. Such experience had led me to realize a challenge to apprehend characteristics of each nation, nonetheless conversing with each and every guest gave me enormous and irreplaceable joy.
I would like send big thanks to all guests, site staff and organizers of the event, and my team for their contribution in the success of the event.
Michelin Asia Robert Parker共同主催のマカオでの料理とワインの祭典、The international chef showcaseに参加してきました。現地のレストランと共同で4日間、毎日50人前の懐石料理とワインペアリングをサービスするというイベントで、材料の打ち合わせからサービスに至るまで、昨年夏から準備を重ねてきました。

会場となったのはAltira hotel内にある東京の有名天麩羅店の支店、“天政”で、今回は同じ日本料理店ということもあり、交渉段階から非常にスムーズに行えました。



Tuesday, 14 February 2017

~~~~~Potter’s Clay from Cornwall, Devon & English Caviar ~~~~~ Cornwall, Devonでの陶土の採集と英国産キャビア

Mr. Kazuya Ishida, a ceramic artist of Bizen, came to visit the UK to participate in workshop at the University of Oxofrd, as well as to prepare pieces to enter Ceramic Art London taking place in March. Aligning with his work schedule in Devon, I rented a car to drive down together to acquire materials for my pottery making.

A five and half hour journey from London, the usually a long and lone trip to Cornwall, was enchanted by tales of the potter, and in no time, we arrived at Nathaniel’s clay pit in St. Agnes. The historical mining spot is located on a hill that overlooks the ocean, and Nathaniel is the 3rd generation of soil mining business who currently operates alone to collect ceramic clay and sands for building constructions. Moreover, Nathaniel is a sole miner in the area of Cornwall and Devon, and coming to know him was a fortunate event brought to me by Maddy, as I had previously used clay unknown of its origin.

As the sunset closed in, we headed to Kigbeare Studio & Gallery, a Maddy’s Home in Devon situated in a depth of a grove, at the end of long drive through a country and woods; we barely found our way, only had Kazuya’s memory to lead us.

Maddy’s studio is home to many ceramic artist and wood craftsmen, and speaking of artists, a team led by Mr. Svend Bayer was coincidently in the middle of Anagama (kiln) making on the site during my visit. That night, we were served superb dinner prepared by all of Maddy’s family members. A beef roast of an indigenous bleed of cow from the area, with a side of assorted fresh vegetables, was cooked to perfection; it was a true gastronomy of home. A natural and gentle sweetness of tart made with home-grown berries was also exceptional.

The early-bird Kazuya was already up and about in the woods when I woke up the next morning. After Maddy gave us a tour of studio, we dug out clay from several mining points on the site. With morning frost, the ground surface was frozen, however we managed to collect sufficient clay for trials as we delved.

With a hearty bowl of soup to send me off, I said farewell to The ‘Maddys’ and Kazuya who continued with his ceramic making, and I moved closer to Exmoor to prepare for the following day.

The next day, I visited a producer of Exmoor Caviar, the first and the only caviar farm in the UK, whose products are already featured in great number of restaurants around London, only after few years of its establishment. Harry, the Operations Director, rushed over, just in time, to give me an introduction of the farm. Sturgeon, the source of caviar, consumes plankton found in mud as its principle food, therefore the taste of caviar significantly depends on the quality of water in the environment where the sturgeon grows in; While many caviars from Europe bares unmistakably rustic smell, the farm’s caviar is free from unattractive aromas, credits to abundant spring water from Exmoor that sandwiches the plantation with its flows where wild trout is seen swimming energetically in both strips of the river. The harvested caviar is only cured and finished with natural Cornish sea salt, and I was truly impressed by their standpoint towards sustainability of its natural flavours.

Potter’s clay from Cornwall and Devon, Cavier from Exmoor, the world is still full of unique indigenous materials and ingredients yet to be uncovered, and this trip had me realised once again the joy of such discoveries. 

備前の陶芸家、石田和也君がオックスフォード大学でのワークショップと、3月のCeramic art London出品のための作品製作のために渡英されました。彼のDevonでの活動にあわせ、レンタカーを借りて私の作陶に使う陶土の購入と採集に行きました。

ロンドンから5時間半、いつもCornwallに行く時は同じ道のりを一人でのドライブですが、今回は陶芸話が弾み、あっという間に陶土を採集しているNathaniel Clay pitCornwall St Agnesに到着しました。海の見える丘陵地に代々続く彼の採掘場はあり、彼は3代目で、陶土と建築などに使う砂を彼一人で採掘しているそうです。現在CornwallDevonで陶土の採掘は彼のところだけで続けられているそうで、今まで産地不明の陶土を使っていた私にとって嬉しい出会いとなりました。彼を紹介してくれたMaddyさんに感謝です。

その後、夕暮れ迫る中、DevonにあるMaddyさんの家、Kigbeare Studios & Galleryに向かいました。Devonの田園と林道を走り続けた奥の奥にあり、和也君の記憶を頼りにようやくたどり着きました。

Maddyさんのスタジオでは多くの陶芸家、木芸家が活動をしており、私が滞在中にも新たに敷地内にSvend Bayer氏率いるチームが穴窯を製作しているところでした。その夜はMaddyさんの家族総出で素晴らしいディナーを作ってくれました。地元に伝わるレアな血統の牛のローストと新鮮な野菜の付け合せは絶妙な火入れでどこのレストランで食べるより美味しい最高の英国の家庭の味でした。自家栽培のベリーを使ったタルトの自然な甘さも格別でした。



翌日は数年前に英国で始めて養殖を初め、現在ロンドン中の多くのレストランで使われているExmoor caviarの生産者を訪ねました。私の訪問あわせてディレクターのHarryが駆けつけてくれ、養殖場を案内してくれました。キャビアを採るスタージョンは土中の生物を主食とするため、水質によってキャビアの味も大きく左右され、多くのヨーロッパ産キャビアがどうしても土臭さが気になっていたところ、彼らのキャビアにはそれが無いことは養殖場を挟むように流れるExmoorからの豊富な湧き水のおかげだと改めて認識されました。どちらの川にも天然の鱒が元気に泳ぐ姿が見られました。彼らはそこで採集した卵にCornwall産の純粋は塩のみで仕上げており、純粋な味を守り続ける姿に感銘を受けました。