Chef Kotaro Hayashi, a retired professional football player, found his calling in the kitchen once he realized that Japanese cuisine was not showcased properly in different parts of the world. In an exclusive interview with Hospitality News ME, Hayashi explains how he has dedicated his career to being a master sushi chef and unveiled his goal of offering a wide range of incomparable authentic Japanese dishes to the heart of Qatar as he heads the kitchen of Morimoto as a master sushi chef.
What distinguishes Qatar’s culinary scene?
Qatar is a fascinating destination for culinary lovers, a country that balances modernity and heritage. It offers a rich and diversified culinary scene with a wide range of options, ranging from Michelin-starred to celebrity-owned restaurants, such as Morimoto. Because the country values quality offerings and searches for the right representation of Japanese cuisine, I make it a point to bring a wide range of incomparable authentic Japanese dishes to the heart of Doha. We also import fresh fish straight from Japan, and I travel back to my home country once a year to bring the newest and most innovative tastes and techniques to Mondrian Doha. Another aspect that distinguishes the Doha culinary scene is its use of advanced kitchen equipment, including proper safety measures and open space. This motivates chefs to work in a comfortable environment, giving them a suitable space to develop innovative ideas and dishes.
How has your culinary expertise contributed to the success of Morimoto Doha?
Before deciding to pursue a career in sushi craftsmanship, I traveled the world and observed that Japanese cuisine was not showcased in its true essence and authenticity. It became apparent that there was a significant gap in how Japanese cuisine was portrayed outside of my home country. This realization motivated me 16 years ago to become a master sushi chef with the aim of showcasing Japanese cuisine in its most genuine and respectful form around the world. The journey was difficult, I had to work my way up before landing my first job in the kitchen.
Since I’ve been at the helm of the kitchen at Morimoto, I’ve cultivated a loyal following who now dine at Morimoto Doha whenever they get a chance. I also have personal connections with the Japanese community in Doha, who visit our restaurant regularly. Also, being multilingual makes it easier for me to connect with guests on a more personal level.
In Morimoto Doha, guests often opt for the Omakase dinner at the sushi counter, leaving me in charge of their meal choices where I use the finest ingredients to make their experience memorable. Each meal is curated based on guests’ preferred tastes and flavors. Thanks to my experience, I can now guess what dishes would satisfy guests based on their reactions and facial expressions.
Skills versus talent: which is more important in the kitchen?
For me, skills are more important than talent, as skills are something that you learn with hard work, passion and determination. Skilled chefs know precisely what they are supposed to do in the kitchen and how to lead a big team to success. I choose to have a team that is eager to learn and takes failure as motivation to move forward and upward. Personally, I need to surround myself with people who push themselves to be better and to do better every day. If you possess proper skills in the kitchen, you can excel as a chef wherever you land in the world, as your skills and hard work will always differentiate you from everyone around you.
Which new culinary trend are you eager to implement？
I am currently working toward using locally sourced ingredients from Qatar. Diners are increasingly interested in knowing where food comes from and how it is grown. Locally sourced ingredients reduce emissions and energy use, contributing to green manufacturing, which builds consumer confidence and, ultimately, loyalty to the restaurant.
Opting for natural and local products often offers a substantial creative taste advantage, mainly if the ingredients available are more unique, like micro herbs, edible flowers and sea vegetables, all of which can be found in Qatar. I’m eager to use more locally produced products in our restaurant and give our customers a true taste of Doha.