As a part of the Noosa International Food and Wine Festival held this weekend, I was invited to “An intimate event with Tetsuya Wakuda” by the Tasmanian company Petuna. Now if you were me, you would have assumed that this ‘intimate’ event would be Tetsuya and 250 of his closest friends.
Imagine my surprise when I arrived and it was Tetsuya, the Petuna people and 3 others. When the Petuna company says intimate, they aren’t kidding.
The interview was conversational and chef Tetsuya couldn’t have been more accomodating in both answering questions or posing for as many photographs as we wanted. He said it was part of the job but one he enjoyed because he always got a hug.
He’s very down to earth and he couches all his recipes with the phrase, “or whatever you like, if you don’t like too much wasabi, use less, if you like more ginger, use more.”
For those of you who don’t have a clue who Tetsuya Wakuda is, he’s a Japanese born Australian chef and is considered one of the most creative culinary talents in the country. He has a restaurant in Sydney called Tetsuya’s and one in Singapore called Waku Ghin. From 2002 to 2010 his restaurant in Sydney was consistently voted one of the World’s Best Restaurants by ‘The S.Pellegrino Worlds 50 Best Restaurants’ voted by critics and chefs. So with that background, imagine having him to talk to for over an hour?
Arriving in Australia in 1982 at 22 years of age with little more than his personal belongings and a love of food, he began working as a sushi chef at Kinsela’s and he stayed there long enough to learn classical French techniques which he has married with his Japanese philosophy of using natural flavours. He started his first restaurant with a partner and a few years later, opened Tetsuya’s as his first restaurant all on his own.
Apart from all the accolades about how good his food is, what struck me was the man. He’s courted by the rich and famous daily but he couldn’t have been kinder to me. You know how some fancypants talk down to you because they can? Tetsuya treated all four of us as equals and that’s what sets the man apart for me. He’s a great cook, a very good manager and a clever businessman but he doesn’t profess to know everything. I got the impression that he feels he can learn something from everyone.
Tetsuya has partnered with the Petuna company to develop smoked ocean trout in a similar fashion to the smoked salmon we’re all used to. We were given samples of the ocean trout and it was soft and creamy and left my mouth wanting more.
The switch from salmon to ocean trout came about when the supply of salmon was between seasons and he was invited to Tasmania to see how the ocean trout were raised. The south-west coast of Tasmania where the Franklin and Gordon rivers meet the Great Southern Ocean is the perfect environment to farm ocean trout. The clean water from the river floats on top of the cold salt water and that is the ideal situation to raise ocean trout which need the pure water to prevent gill disease.
When asked why he chose Petuna to partner with, Tetsuya answered:
“The Petuna Ocean Trout by Peter and Una Rockliff has been the key ingredient in my signature dish, Confit of Ocean Trout. Its vibrant colour, purity of flavour and luscious marbled texture continues to shine and delight my patrons and guests. Neville Rockliff is the son of Peter and Una and a very dear friend. Neville started Ceas Spanner Crab in 2005, with the sole purpose of providing quality spanner crab meat to the Australian and overseas markets.”
I had a quick chat with Neville Rockliff who lives not far from me on the Sunshine Coast and I asked how Ceas could get the crab meat out of the shells without cooking it first. He laughed and said that in the beginning his wife used to cover everything in the kitchen when he’d work on the crabs. They did master the art of retrieving the meat and the trick is to put the crabs in the freezer at 0 degrees for about 15 minutes and then pop them in a centrifuge and whisk the meat out. Once that’s done, workers retrieve whatever meat is left.
I came home with a package of the ocean trout and the spanner crab meat. The trout went into appetisers and the crabmeat went into the most delicious fried rice. It’s available all over Australia in good seafood shops and will be available around the world once they get enough crabs. Queensland is serious about sustainable fishing.
For the Noosa International Food and Wine Festival Tetsuya prepared a Bon Bon of Ocean Trout that could easily fit into a traditional truffle chocolate box. It is a miniature of his tian of ocean trout which is available at Tetsuya’s Restaurant in Sydney.
If you’d like to make some yourself, here’s his recipe.
- 12 thinly sliced Petuna Ocean Trout™ portions of sashimi grade quality
- 60g finely diced end of belly Petuna Ocean Trout™ portions of sashimi grade quality
- 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp chives, finely chopped
- ½ tsp soya sauce
- ½ tsp mirin
- 2 tsp wasabi stalk, finely chopped
- 3 tsp goat’s curd
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper
- 12 pieces of cling wrap larger than Petuna Ocean Trout™ slices
- Mix all ingredients together, except for the sliced Petuna Ocean Trout™.
- On each piece of cut cling wrap, place Ocean Trout slice and a small amount of trout mix on the sliced trout.
- Pick up the 4 corners of the wrap and lift to make a round shape.
- Tie the wrap and place Bon Bons in the refrigerator for 3-5 hours.
- Drop little olive oil and grained black pepper then serve.
What a lovely experience! It’s always SO nice when people are even kinder and more gracious than you might’ve hoped. He sounds like a dear man. I grew up eating trout (lots of fishermen in my family in Canada) and smoked trout sounds fantastic. 🙂
I couldn’t agree with you more!
Lori Lynn says
Kudos to the Chef.
Love the styling on both dishes.
Could pop several of those trout balls into my mouth and be very happy…
He’s a clever man, Lori Lynn!
Lori Lynn says
P.P.S. And I love that he calls them bon bons…
It is always nice to hear that people of that sort of fame still can be respectful and down to earth. What an opportunity to speak to him!
I couldn’t believe that it was just four of us and I was the only food blogger. One other was the chief food writer for our largest newspaper chain. She thought it was cool too.
Great interview! He sounds like such an interesting man. And we all got to meet him through you! Terrific post – thanks.
AND you can see that while he’s not a tall man at all, he’s taller than me. Maybe that’s why he liked me? 🙂
Choc Chip Uru says
That is incredible, Tetsuya is such a brilliant man yet seems completely down to earth – what a lucky experience 🙂
Choc Chip Uru
You would have loved it as much as I did!
Denise Browning@From Brazil To You says
Maureen: What a great interview with a talented Chef!!! I love how humble he is despite being a well-known and acclaimed Chef. The trout bon bon is a simple yet very impressive dish indeed. I wish I was there to participate in this festival and learn so many different things.
You’d love it and be welcomed with open arms 🙂
Claire @ Claire K Creations says
What an honor Maureen! He has such a friendly face doesn’t he? That dish is just beautiful.
he’s friendly all over ! I wonder what he’s like when he’s angry 🙂
Lizzy (Good Things) says
Go Maureen! And Tetsuya, well, no words needed. Love those bon bons. I can only imagine how exquisite they taste!
he’s such an icon of Australian fine dining
Joanne T Ferguson says
Wow Maureen, what a GREAT photo and interview!
What a beautiful recipe and what an honor it would have been in Tetsuya presence as he is an extraordinary man who has lived a remarkable life too!
What’s On The List
He’s certainly created his own life, hasn’t he? Starting at 22 with no money, only a desire. I saw an interview on tv that he took the lowest paying job in town because he didn’t speak very good English. He learns quickly, obviously. 🙂
Jennifer @ Delicieux says
What a wonderful experience Maureen!! I’m so jealous you got to meet Tetsuya. I think he’s such an amazing chef, but what I love most of all is his love of the Tasmanian food industry. Being from Tasmania myself it’s so wonderful to see someone sharing and promoting the amazing food industry there.
He promotes quality ingredients from wherever he finds them. He’s also keen on a lot of Queensland produce too. He has a love affair with Tasmania though. 🙂
Hotly Spiced says
I remember Kinsalas. It was a place where everyone wanted to be seen. What a great photo of you and Tetsuya. It must have incredible interviewing him. (I would have been a nervous wreck) xx
I don’t think you would have been nervous, Charlie. He instantly puts you at ease.
Dear Maureen, How exciting and fun!! I bet it was so much fun. I am happy for you. Blessings dear friend. Catherine xo
Thank you so much for this description. So enjoyed! Was fortunate to notice recently that a film about Tetsuya’s life was on SBS methinks and it told the story of this lovely guy and remarkable chef from his childhood beginnings in Japan in a fishing family, if I remember correctly? A lot of warmth, a lot of humility, but knowing just what he wanted. Wish he could find a partner to share . . . this kind of careers take a toll. Love the bonbons of ocean trout, so easy to make from pantry items once you get the fish . . .
I think everyone who’s ever seen him wishes he could find time for some loving 🙂
Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says
What a wonderful experience Maureen! And wow that really is intimate but that is the perfect scenario isn’t it? 😀 Thanks for sharing this special experience with us 😀
Thanks Lorraine. I was shocked. The tent was set up for a normal crowd – two rows but only the front row had champagne and plates. All I could think of was, “There are only 4 of us and now I have to have questions!” LOL
I could never be able to produce such amazing food in a hundred years…It’s more than craft, it’s rare creative talent :). He’s amazing.
I think you don’t give yourself enough credit. You are a very artistic person and maybe all you need to do is try it. 🙂
The Café Sucre Farine says
Oh my goodness, I couldn’t think of much that would be more interesting and fun! A number of years ago we were invited to spend a week on a yacht in the Caribbean. The boat had a chef from a wonderful restaurant in Phoenix. I spent most of the week in the kitchen with the chef while the others were having their own fun 🙂 Love the name for his recipe!
oh what a wonderful week you must have had, Chris!
Adrian (What the Heck is Filipino Food) says
How awesome is this! What a seriously perfect match – two talented but humble cooks.
LOL, Adrian you’re just the best. You make me laugh every time I see your name.
Victoria of Flavors of the Sun says
What a lovely man and a terrific interview. He really shines. And the recipe…oh, my.
He’s a very clever man and I liked him instantly.
Lisa the Gourmet Wog says
He comes across as such a down to earth kind of guy! Others would’ve let their egos take over, but he certainly hasn’t.
I know, he could certainly swagger around and be rude but he doesn’t see himself as anything great. He must know he’s pretty cool but he takes nothing for granted.
Barbara | Creative Culinary says
Sounds like you had an amazing time…and what a good read; how fun for you!
It would have been more fun if you’d been with me! 🙂
Nilu A says
Great opportunity.. Awesome styling… Very unique name of the dish 🙂
he’s a very clever man. Thanks for stopping by Nilu!
Tricia @ Saving room for dessert says
What a beautiful presentation! I could moan about this fish! You have all the fun – good for you! What nice generous people – such fun.
I’m sure I don’t have ALL the fun but the Noosa Food and Wine week was definitely a highlight of the month of May 🙂
A Canadian Foodie says
Intimate is the word. What a privilege! Lucky you, and you deserve it! I thoroughly enjoyed every word of this post, and a recipe as well! Unheard of! And I can actually make it! I am thrilled with this little bon bon tip…
I’d love to see what you do with this idea, Valerie! I love your cooking 🙂
Julia | JuliasAlbum.com says
Absolutely stunning presentation of trout! What a talented chef!
definitely world class, Julia. He’s no Gordon Ramsay, that’s for sure. I can’t imagine this man yelling or cursing at anyone. I’m sure he gets the best out of his employees by training them well and treating them with respect. However, I have no proof of this. 🙂
Iron Chef Shellie says
awwwww jealous! <3 Tetsyua!
I wish you could have been in Noosa with us. Wouldn’t that have been fun. Maybe next year? 🙂 I’ve got a guest room.
Claire @ Simply Sweet Justice says
What a special experience! I love the photo – you look so happy!
he’s a terrific chef and an even better person 🙂
Japanese food is definitely one kind of cuisine I’d like to learn- so artistic looking, yet full of good flavours. Tetsuya, please come and teach me- LOL!
Wow what an amazing experience. I saw a doco on his Singapore restaurant and he came across as a humble man who had a real love for Australia. I would have been tongue tied in his presence I think!
No, you wouldn’t have, seriously. He’s a lovely human being and that’s exactly how he comes across.
Marie @citronlimette.com says
What a great interview, Maureen. Thank you for sharing !
wok with ray says
What a great meeting experience you had with the Chef and made us all proud. Thank you for sharing this post, Maureen! 🙂
It was a lovely time, Ray. I would do it again tomorrow.
InTolerant Chef says
How exciting indeed, he is such a culinary icon ! I really like how he has linked his name so closely with Petuna, that shows complete faith in the product indeed.
He has more than linked his name. He is actively involved in quality control. As he said, “if it’s not right after smoking, the whole lot is dumped.”
Have you seen the doco on SBS on Tetsuya Wakuda called Pursuit of Excellence? Loved his story and approach to cooking.
What a lovely experience and it’s good to know a bit about his real character from you 🙂
Shea @ Dixie Chik Cooks says
Love the interview – and the fish looks divine!
Doesn’t it? He’s a clever man!
What a lovely experience!! I enjoyed reading this very much. 🙂
I had the best time!
Mary Frances says
What a lovely experience. This bon bon looks amazing! And I would love to try that crab meat! (My husband is from Baltimore.)
Nami | Just One Cookbook says
I’ve heard about this chef before so it was really fun to read your post about him. I’d love to visit his restaurant(s) when I get a chance too! It’s inspiring to know there are successful Japanese people living oversea!
Nagi@RecipeTin Eats says
One word. Jealous. 🙂