Not a Weapon, but Something Delicious” Hakodate Chef Appeals for a Way to Happiness | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Not a Weapon, but Something Delicious” Hakodate Chef Appeals for a Way to Happiness

Why a Spanish Restaurant "in Hakodate" Draws Customers from Around the Nation

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Mr. Fukaya, a Spanish chef, has a background in engineering. He made “making good food” his career because… Photo by TEN

If you build a machine, it may become an instrument of war. But in making good food, the only thing that can happen is to make people happy. That’s why I chose the culinary path.”

Koji Fukaya, chef of Restaurant Basque, a Spanish restaurant in Hakodate, Hokkaido, says, “I am very proud of the quality of the food I serve.

I would like to share my knowledge of how to make delicious food with other chefs, rather than having it monopolized by one chef. Good food makes people happy, and we want to share that wisdom.

Restaurant Basque opened in 1981 in Mr. Fukaya’s hometown of Hakodate, probably the first Spanish Basque restaurant in Japan. Today, Restaurant Basque has earned a reputation as “the best Spanish restaurant in Japan” and attracts customers from all over the country.

I lived in Hakodate until high school. I went on to Tokyo University of Science and graduated from the engineering department. 1970 It was in 1949. It was a time when student and social movements were flourishing. It was an environment where even ordinary students became deeply interested in social issues. When I graduated, I was undecided about my career path. A professor at the university recommended me to work as an assistant, and I thought about it for two years.

During the Vietnam War, cathode-ray tube technology was used in the tips of bombs used by the U.S. military. I thought to myself, “Oh, my job making machines is connected to tools that kill people without my knowledge. It was shocking.”

Lost in his career path, he took jobs as a salesman and as a university official. Then I decided to become a chef! He worked at a Western-style restaurant in Tokyo for two years.

I wanted to learn about real cuisine, so I set my sights on France. I studied French in Tokyo and crossed from Yokohama by boat. When I arrived in Paris, I went to a restaurant and asked, ‘Please let me work,’ but at most I could help out for a day and they wouldn’t hire me. I ate food here and there, hitchhiked around Europe, and ended up in Spain.”

He traveled to Europe without an appointment. It is foolhardy. Yet

In San Sebastian, Spain, the madam of the hotel where I was staying told me, ‘There is a specialty in this city called squid ink stew. I told her that in my hometown of Hakodate, Japan, they have salted squid, and we got to talking about the dish. She introduced me to Luis Irizar, who became my mentor for the rest of my life.

Working at Luis’ restaurant, I was able to learn about authentic Spanish cuisine.

Luis used to hold study groups where cooks would share their recipes with other cooks. It was a big surprise to me because I had been in a culture in Japan where chefs learn their skills by watching their masters’ backs.

We teach each other what we know and grow together. Behind this philosophy is a sense of pride in being Basque.

The Basque Country has a history of suffering during the Spanish Civil War. Luis always said that politicians would show their presence as Basques in parliament, athletes on the field, and chefs with their food.

After returning to Japan, Fukaya opened Basque in his hometown of Hakodate, where he says he learned about real cuisine and how to be a person.

At the time, ingredients such as cured ham, anchovies, and herbs were not available in Japan. So I made them myself. Even now, I offer cured ham aged in my store. We grow herbs in our garden, and our bread has been homemade since the restaurant opened.

I want to make good food and share my wisdom. This idea has never changed.

When the restaurant opened, all ingredients not available in Japan were made by hand. Even today, he still makes cured ham and bakes bread. His signature ham is hung in the restaurant during the final aging process.

The “The 2009 Since 2006, we have held the “World Culinary Society” in Hakodate.

The way to make good food is not to monopolize it, but to share it with everyone. I want to put into practice the philosophy that Lewis taught me. Last year the conference was held online due to the Corona Disaster, but this year we are preparing to hold the 10th conference in September. We are going to bring together chefs from Japan, Europe, and the rest of the world, and we are going to transmit our message from Hakodate.

There is a big war going on in Europe right now. Here in Hakodate, we have close ties with Russia, and I have several friends of Russian descent. I am shocked. I don’t think the Russians are to blame. I think it is President Putin who is at fault. I have no anger toward the Russian people.

I want to make people happy with my cooking. I want to create a place where people who don’t know each other can get to know each other by eating delicious food together.

I am not using weapons, but making good food is the path I am on.

The restaurant is located in a residential area of Hakodate. His mentor taught him to “stay in your hometown, not in Tokyo.”
Cooking recipes are not exclusive. He says, “I want to share it with as many people as possible.”

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