Master sushi chef and executive chef of Katsuya Worldwide, Katsuya Uechi, launched Katsuya by Starck earlier this year at Jumeirah Al Naseem, Dubai. In conversation with The Pro Chef Middle East he details his expansion plans for the Middle East, talks the importance of fresh fish to Japanese cuisine, and maintaining quality standards across restaurants.
You recently opened Katsuya in Dubai – what attracted you to launch in this region?
Dubai is so very multicultural and it felt like the right fit because the restaurant brings in people from all over the world who enjoy our food. Not everybody likes Japanese, it is an acquired taste, but there seems to be a huge market for it in Dubai.
How many restaurants do you have internationally, and how often do you visit each outlet?
Approximately 20 locations. I visit each location if I feel the need to go or if they need my help, but I don’t have a set schedule. I personally train each executive chef who heads the various kitchens, so I know the restaurant is in good hands.
With so much travelling, are you able to get hands on in the kitchen often?
Yes, but it is rare that I instruct during operation hours. If it’s needed, I teach and work with other chefs after operating hours.
Sushi relies heavily on high-quality, fresh fish. Where do you source your fish from for Katsuya?
Almost all fish used at Katsuya is imported from Japan, US or Europe. They are flown in fresh and delivered to the restaurant based on our requirement – fresh fish is the most important element in a Japanese kitchen.
Which types of fish are bestsellers in the restaurant?
The most popular are tuna, yellowtail and salmon.
We hear there’s bigger expansion plans for the brand to come across the Middle East in Dubai, Qatar and Bahrain, tell us about the concepts and when they’re expected to open…
As you know, the design and unique décor is done by Philippe Starck while I create Katsuya’s authentic, original Japanese dishes. This is the common concept that flows throughout all locations. The next opening will be decided following the success of the Dubai opening.
Inside the kitchen at Katsuya Dubai, who mans the kitchen when you’re not around?
His name is chef Sean, and he is an incredible chef!
Katsuya is renown internationally for its high standard Japanese offering – how do you ensure consistency? What training processes are your chefs required to take?
It is important to ensure that every customer is treated with importance and served delicious food. Consistency is a core value at Katsuya. Every dish will look and taste the same every time it is ordered. Every drink will be prepared in the same fashion no matter which bartender makes it. Every guest will be treated with the same excellence in guest service, regardless of who they are.
It all begins with making sure that the kitchen is kept clean and chef’s always helping one other out – this is the basis of everything. Each executive chef is personally trained by me and unless each dish is perfect, they don’t take the next step.
For young chefs aspiring to become a master in Japanese cuisine, what would your advice be to them?
Sense is important. Always demand a technique, knowledge, and an exercise, these are important to improve your skill. And never give up.