La Terrasse Irisee

The food made by restuarants that are particular about their knives is delicious

As the number of restaurants that are particular about their ingredients increases, chefs are becoming more particular about their kitchen knives in order to make the best use of those ingredients. Restaurants that really focus on the quality and care of their kitchen knives make, without exception, delicious food.

The "Connecting with Taste - Chef Interviews" series introduces restaurants with amazing cuisine! Gourmet food websites star these restaurants of course, but they warrant further discussion - partially in thanks to the charms of their chefs.

For our 8th installment, we interviewed Mr. Susumu Sasaki, who serves authentic French cuisine in Shobuike, Nara. He was awarded a star in the Michelin Guide Nara 2022, published for the first time in six years, after only one year in the position.

I had no hesitation at all, I just enjoyed cooking.

It was around junior high school that I decided to become a chef. When I think back on it now, I remember that I used to make fried rice and other dishes at home, and that I gave it my all during cooking lessons in school. The reactions of the people around me who ate it were very positive, and I have good memories of it.

My mother also used to make elaborate dishes, and I loved the TV show "Iron Chef", watching it often.

As of this interview I am 52 years old. During the late 1980s when I was much younger, my parents believed that being a chef was still an unstable profession. I had wanted to become a chef since I was a student, but when I talked to my parents about it they told me not to, saying "It's mizu-shōbai, so don't do it!" and I gave up. Since the high school I attended was a technical high school, I got a job as an engineer at an electrical company in the air conditioning industry.

I worked there for a couple of years, but it wasn't interesting to me. I wanted to cook. I started working part-time as a cook's assistant at night and on my days off at pubs and wedding kitchens. I ended up quitting the electrical company when I was about 21 years old. I had no hesitation at all. I just enjoyed cooking.

Among Japanese, Chinese, and French cooking processes, I was suddenly attracted to the French methods. It felt like a place where one could grill meat and fish, plus prepare a variety of sauces and paint on our plate canvases freely.

The spirit instilled at Osaka's leading French restaurant

I had two choices of work places in Osaka, Epouvantail and Bistro Vingt-cinq. I had heard that these two restaurants were the toughest to work in Osaka at the time, so I applied there.

As I predicted based on their high reputation, everyone had gone to culinary school, and some had even gone to France to study cooking. I think I was looked down upon because I had no cooking experience.

Everything at work, including cooking terms, vegetables, and meat, was of course in French, but I didn't understand a word of it. I started following the owner-chef to the market before six in the morning, helping prepare the food, opening for lunch and dinner, and cleaning up after.

I listened to French CDs many times on the way to work to try and learn more. What struck me at Epouvantail was how tough it was to be the owner. He was basically working the same amount of hours as I was, a physically fit 20-something year old, while keeping the restaurant running. I also had the impression that he was quiet and scary at the time.

At Vingt-cinq, Mr. Hara was the executive chef. He was very inquisitive and always carried a notebook with him.

He is now over 80 years old, but the last time he came to eat at this restaurant, he did not seem to know about a certain variety of turnip called Momosuke and he asked a lot about it. I was happy to see that his passion for cooking has not waned.

I still think a large part of me is following in the footsteps of these two chefs.

The "difference" experienced in the real France

When I was working at Vingt-cinq and had saved up to about 1 million yen, including part-time work on weekends, I was introduced to a restaurant in France by a senior colleague.

Since I was going to the home of French cuisine, I wanted to go to a place where there were no Japanese people in the kitchen as much as possible. With the money I had saved, it would be a good thing if I could stay there for 2-3 years. Since my tourist visa was only good for 3 months, I left France when it was about to expire and moved from place to place in Europe so that I could study cooking as much as possible.

As expected, it was fun! I was especially impressed by the scale of the ingredients being so different. Compared to Japanese ingredients, the whole thing was bigger, laden with outstanding aromas. They felt different to the touch and everything.

Experience at Girardet, one of the best French restaurants in the world

In the meantime, there was a restaurant in Switzerland that I really wanted to try working at.

It was a restaurant called Girardet, which had been continually awarded three stars for a long time. During my stay in Europe, I sent at least 10 love letters to this restaurant.
Those kinds of resturants frequently receive the same sort of love letters, so I consistently got rejection replies.

I went to dinner there once every three months and told them I wanted to work there, but they refused each time.
After three years in Europe, I was running out of money. With that in mind, I decided to go to the restaurant one last time to have a meal, because I had to return to Japan soon.

By chance, at the same time, I happened to be told that three of their cooks were injured and they were temporarily short-staffed, so I could start work from the next day.
I was very surprised, but I realized that opportunities can come to everyone if you don't give up.

Firstly, there was a three-month trial period.
This restaurant receives resumes from talented young chefs all over the world. There are 70 seats, which are full day and night, and there are 30 kitchen staff members. If you make even the slightest mistake, you will be fired immediately because there are so many replacements, so there is a great deal of tension.

Once you enter that kitchen, you quickly notice that everything is on a whole different level. Everyone is extremely good at their jobs. Speed, accuracy, cleanliness—every movement they did was in sync.

I came back to the fact that Ichimonji's knives had the finest balance and cutting ability. They are a part of me.

I was assigned to work in the fish position, and gave it my absolute all. What helped me at that time was Ichimonji's kitchen knives.

Even back then, Japanese knives were famous, but most cooks had never seen them.

So they said, "You're so fast! What kind of knives are you using?".

As a result, I got this job and was able to go around to all sections in the restaurant, eventually ending up in the position of junior sous chef. In total, I was there for six and a half years.

I used up one of my knives in those six and a half years due to the enormous amount of work I was doing every day. It's a different one than my current Sujihiki knife, but I started using it when I was 21, and the one I have now is fifth generation.

No joke, I think these knives have really helped me. Of course, I have used knives from other manufacturers, but I still think that Ichimonji's knives are the best in terms of sharpness and balance, and they feel right in my hands.
They are a part of me. I also like the fact that they (the knives of G-Line Series) have a big "S" on the blade, which has something in common with my initials.

Challenges in foreign countries and conflicts when coming back to Japan

After six and a half years at Girardet, I decided I wanted to try managing and running my own restaurant. I went to work under an owner-chef in Switzerland to get the experience I was seeking.

My experience there was very difficult, reminding me of Epouvantail and Vingt-cinq.
I worked at the restaurant, and helped with cooking classes plus on-site cooking, and I thought, "When is this owner-chef sleeping?" I spent two years here, but even after that I was still worried that it would be difficult to open my own restaurant because of the differences in nationalities and language skills.

At that time, I received an offer from a restaurant called Cheval Blanc in Basel, Switzerland. Basel is a German speaking city, with completely different cultures and languages.
I considered it for about three months, and decided to accept the offer because I thought it would be a good challenge.

The owner of the restaurant wanted me to make Restaurant Cheval Blanc the best restaurant in Switzerland. He told me that a German chef I was acquainted with named Peter, had invited me because of that.
From being a sous chef to managing the development of menus, I was able to engage freely in various experiences at the restaurant.
Restaurant Cheval Blanc, which I started together with Peter, was listed as one star in the Michelin Guide Switzerland 2006 in my first year in the position, two stars in my second year, and finally three stars in my eighth year.

In Europe, I was able to work in several starred restaurants and again at Girardet, and later as a chef at a three-star restaurant.

After being away from Japan for about 20 years, I had a sense that hard work during the bubble era was the norm, and I was working in one of the most demanding environments in French cuisine, so I honestly had a hard time adjusting to the current era in Japan.

"Loving my job and cooking" was all I had.

It was then that I was invited to join Delight Corporation's restaurant La Terrasse Irisée. The president was young, and the group's executive chef was of the same generation as me.
This meant that our values as a generation were close. He told me, "I want you to do what you want."
At that time, I heard that the Nara edition of the Michelin Guide would be published in 2022, so I was very enthusiastic and said to myself, "Okay, I'll take this job."

Thankfully, the restaurant was listed as a one-star restaurant in the Michelin Guide Nara 2022, the first time it has been published in six years.

The kitchen staff members are young but ambitious. The two of them are in their twenties, one of whom is ambitious to succeed in French cuisine, and the other wants to win a competition.

I want to pass on what I have. I have never felt that it is hard. I've just been doing what I want to do for a long time. A message for young people? All I can say is, "You have to love this job to do it." That's how I persevered.

We want to provide customers who come to our restaurant with "tastes and experiences that can only be experienced here"

La Terrace Irisée is located in Nara, which is not exactly an urban area, but it is a very beautiful place, including the scenery. I take pride in my experience in authentic French cuisine, but some of our chefs have experience in Japanese cuisine. I would like to offer our guests "tastes and experiences that can only be experienced here".

Shop Info

La Terrasse Irisee

〒631-0032 HANA 1F, Ayameikekita1-34-7, Nara, JAPAN
Capacity:30 seats(including 8 seats of private room)
Lunch Time/ 11:30~13:00(L.O)15:00 closed
Dinner Time/17:30~18:30(L.O)

*By reservation only. Please make a reservation in advance.
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