A new wave of dinner entertainment has hit Japan’s culinary world. In the wake of the recession, which has left its mark on the whole of Japan’s food service industry and more than a few restaurants struggling, a few pioneers are doing something new. CHEF-1 Night is a series of one-night-only events where top chefs put their heads together to devise an elaborate full course dinner.
The chefs, who may specialize in a variety of cuisines (such as Italian, French, or Chinese among others), are each charged with creating one course, from starter to dessert, to the best of their ability. One chef might be responsible for one course, or multiple of chefs might work together in creating different parts of the same course. The results of which might be, for example, a chef who would normally cook Japanese cuisine having to suddenly cook French cuisine, or a pâtissier having to whip up sushi. In other words, these events are places where you’ll find entirely unique food that isn’t available anywhere else – miss one of these events and miss out on a chance to enjoy one of Tokyo’s top dinners.
More refreshing still, is the entertainment factor of these events. Not only are the chefs that take part different each time and chosen from an all-star chef line up that includes the likes of Italian cuisine specialist Tsutomu Ochiai, French cuisine specialist Hiroyuki Sakai, Chinese cuisine specialist Chen Kenichi, Japanese cuisine specialist Hideki Ishikawa and pâtissier Toshihiko Yoroizuka, they also cook in an open kitchen – exposing their skills and kitchen flurrying for all to see. These real-time movements of the chefs are displayed to guests on a large screen and commented on by a host, whose job it is check up on and talk with the chefs and generally entertain the guests whilst they wait for their food to be prepared.
In addition to the main event, two of the participating chefs will also compete with each other to each create a single plate that’s based on only one principal ingredient, within a time frame of about ten minutes. When the two plates are ready, about five people are chosen from amongst the main guests to taste both fares and vote for the winner – making the evening an event that could be viewed as a kind of short version of the 90s hit television show ‘Ryori-no-Tetsujin’ (‘Iron Chef’). This is perhaps no coincidence as the people behind this new dinner event are none other than the very same team who dreamt up and directed the original ‘Ryori-no-Tetsujin’ television show.
So far there have been seven CHEF-1 events, with each winning wide acclaim (so much so that some people are reportedly attending events regularly), more are scheduled. The venue for the regular event is the Restaurant Riviera Aoyama in Minato ward, not far from Aoyama Bell Commons. Additionally, there is now also a CHEF-1 Premium Night that will take place at hotels and at various other locations.
In a further development, the people behind CHEF-1 have teamed up with Fuji Television to create a show called ‘Luna Regalo Tsuki kara no Okurimono’ (‘Gift from the Moon’), which is scheduled to premiere in April and run until spring 2011. The event, which is the first of its kind in Japan, offers the opportunity to sample first class cuisine from first rate chefs whilst enjoying acrobatic performances from Russia’s famous Great Moscow State Circus. The show is to be held in Hibiya, Tokyo, at a special venue that will accommodate up to 400 people and be both a theatre and a restaurant. Preparing the food will be a team comprised of the same chefs from the CHEF-1 events.
In stage one, which runs from April until June, French cuisine specialist Hiroyuki Sakai, Italian cuisine specialist Hiro Yamada, Chinese cuisine specialist Kinya Komoda and pâtissier Aya Kakisawa will each create a course with a tsuki (moon) theme. The idea of combining a restaurant with a circus, which has already been accomplished overseas, is not a new idea in itself – however, this is the first time that such an event has employed the services of top class celebrity chefs to prepare the food. Furthermore, in addition to lining up a variety of top chefs and world-class acrobats, ‘Luna Regalo’ also offers guests the chance to see an enchanting screen performance by actor Toshiaki Karasawa playing the restaurant manager; and, with popular artist and industrial designer Tatsuya Ishii in charge of designing the performers’ wardrobe there is more than enough to inspire event related gossip and discussion. Ticket prices range from ¥14,000 to ¥18,000 per person, and whilst these prices may not be cheap, tickets for the April and May previews are already proving to be popular.
In the world of eating out, where restaurants can all too often be cramped and stuffy, the team behind CHEF-1 is creating a new culinary wave – a union between entertainment and fine food. Where they go from here is both anyone’s guess, and definitely something to look forward to with due anticipation.
Tickets are available through the website prior to each event
The 8th CHEF-1 Night in Restaurant Riviera Aoyama
Date: Sun April 18 (provisional)
Place: Restaurant Riviera Aoyama
Address: 3-3-3 Minami Aoyama, Minato, Tokyo
Telephone: (03)5411 6660 (Mon-Fri)
The 2nd CHEF-1 Premium Night in Meguro Gajoen
Date: Fri Mar 26
Time: 6pm open, 7-10pm
Place: 2F Maiogi Banquet Hall, Meguro Gajoen (Full details & map)
‘Luna Regalo Tsuki kara no Okurimono’
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Translated by Brin Wilson