Originating from the heart of Japan, Chef Ajiro Shinoda, brand head chef at Atisuto tells us why he is trying to embrace ‘Tamashii’, Japanese for ‘soul’, in every aspect of his career.
With dreams of becoming a pilot, Chef Shinoda’s passion for cooking took off at an early age when he landed a job in the kitchens of the Hotel Okura in Tokyo back in 1977 and it all went uphill from there, according to the chef.
“My father spotted my passion for cooking very early and suggested I think about it as a career and when I got my first job at Hotel Okura, I immediately felt at home,” Chef Shinoda says.
“I was in complete awe of the chefs and all the exotic ingredients, I loved every minute of it. I ended up working at the hotel in various capacities for 22 years so it’s fair to say that my father was right.”
With never-ending support from his family, Chef Shinoda gives the credit of his career to his parents as they inspired him to follow his passion, “As far back as I can remember, food was always an important part of our family and my mother told me ‘If you become a chef, you can eat even if you are poor,” Chef Shinoda recalls.
“My father was a wonderful chef too. Some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around weekends spent watching him cook and the delight I had when I got to try his food is something that has carried me through my entire career as I want to bring the same joyful experience to everyone.”
Leading the team at the home-grown Japanese concept, Chef Shinoda is trying to spread the essence of tamashii among his colleagues by encouraging them to embrace the passion.
“The Dubai culinary scene is a tough one, incredibly fast moving and highly saturated. We are seeing a very high turnover at the moment, with concepts opening and closing at an alarming rate and in my experience those who compromise on the concept or food quality are unable to survive,” he says.
“At Atisuto, we are committed to ensuring that our tamashii or soul, is at the heart of everything we do, however one of our key challenges is educating the team on the importance of tamashii. For the Japanese, it’s a way of life but when you’re working with a team from different nationalities, it can take a while for them to fully understand and embrace it.
“Those that don’t understand the tamashii philosophy can sometimes get impatient having to perform the same task over and over again until they get it right. However, once fully understood and embraced, Tamashii makes a big difference and that is when we see them creating food with passion, which is what the philosophy is all about,” he adds.
This is also an aspect that young chefs entering the industry should consider before beginning their professional career, according to Chef Shinoda.
“Hospitality is an incredibly fun industry which can open up doors to a lot of opportunities, but it doesn’t come easy, you have to be prepared to work hard and have a lot of patience,” he explains.
“Chefs should choose their jobs carefully, working with restaurants where they feel the soul. The days and nights can be long so make sure you like the people and the concept you are working with and stay with it. In a dynamic city like Dubai, it can be all too tempting to move on to the next thing, whether it be an exciting new opening or perceived promotion, but I am a big believer that if you put time into each role, your experience will be better.”