Fushiki moved into this restaurant in January 2014, but he started out doing a variety of cheffing jobs including stints at Italian and French restaurants – until the fermentation bug bit, and bit hard. ‘I lost my friends and family because I spent so much time with my fermentations,’ he laughs. Lean, lithe, quick to smile and tell a joke, he’s far from the po-faced, ascetic type one might associate with a self-avowed mould-fancier. Fushiki may have coined a new culinary term, but he’s keen to point out that what he’s doing is about preserving tradition.
He taught himself about fermentation by trial and error, he explains, largely because there wasn’t a Japanese chef who could teach him. The problem, he explains, is that traditional foods have gone out of fashion in Japan and there are only a few people who hold the key to the past. Traditional foods once made by hand, in the home, are now overwhelmingly factorymade. Hakko-ryori is a way of redressing the balance, in the hope that the traditional methods will not be lost.
Fushiki passes over his business card, which reads ‘kamose’ – meaning ‘let it ferment’. His career, it seems, is building up a lively, koji-powered head of steam. He’s already published several books and is soon to give a talk about fermentation at the Culinary Institute of America in San Francisco. There he’ll doubtless find a ready audience among the avid fermentation enthusiasts nicknamed ‘fermentos’, who are firmly committed to the kamose cause. ‘Hakko-ryori’, ‘Kamose cooking’ – they have a good ring to them, and it may just catch on.
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