Soba Noodles in Japan
I was in Japan with Cook it Raw, and it was a period in my life where I was trying to make some decisions about what my role as a chef really was, what made me happy as a chef, and not what I needed to be cooking to fill the restaurant with guests every night.
We went to this little place (Uesugi) just outside of the Ishikawa Prefecture. It was one guy in the kitchen; he’d been there forever. And we had 15 or 20 people with us—we all wanted to go experience the best soba noodles in the world, hot and cold, and this guy was supposed to be the best. But he would only make two orders at a time. And so we had to go through essentially 20 rounds—it took seven hours, and everybody ate at different times.
What I saw was someone who didn’t make any sacrifices. He knew what his capabilities were, as a human being, and as a cook. And he knew that he could only make two perfect orders at a time, and it didn’t matter how long the guest waited, it didn’t matter how many people got upset because they couldn’t have it right away. And I admired that so much. It helped give me the confidence to be the chef that I want to be, and not the chef that everyone else wants me to be. I’ll never forget eating those noodles—experiencing that emotion, but on top of that, [the noodles] being one of the most delicious and perfect things I’ve ever put in my mouth.