Connecting with taste - Chef Onishi of Onishitei Restaurant

Sakai Ichimonji meets with Chef Onishi of Onishitei Restaurant about his journey in the hospitality world, and how he came to use Sakai Ichimonji Kitchen knives.

How did your Interest in cooking begin?

“When I was little, I didn't have to wait until my parents came home. I cooked my own rice because both my parents were running a greengrocer. This meant dinner wasn’t usually ready until after 8pm. Being a young elementary school student, I couldn’t wait that long to eat.”

From there, I became interested in cooking and made my own food. For example, I remember buying curry roux, peeling potatoes, and cutting meat, but I wasn’t satisfied with the meat I had, so I consulted with the local butcher to choose a better cut.

I remember that I had considered a career in cooking the right path for me and my parents were very supportive. My school suggested I attend the Rihga Royal Culinary School after graduating, so of course that’s what I did.

I used to be part of the school baseball team and I think that really helped my journey to becoming a chef. You really need guts to survive in this world.

It was tough at culinary school, but it was my dream and so many people went on to do even more amazing things. I remember the head chef, became the managing director, then went on to open a golf course and hotels. Righa Culinary School was a great launchpad for people.

I made it my goal to become the Head Chef at the Righa Royal. I succeeded and had a busy time there. Nowadays, hotels may hold 10 weddings a day. But we used to do 10 in the morning, 10 in the afternoon and 10 at night.

At one point I was making a course to feed 3000 people who came to the hotel on a business trip. Each wedding is a once in the lifetime event for the couple, so it must be perfect. There is no second chance.

It was a high-pressure job. I used to work from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., but during the busy season it would be more like 2 a.m.. I would often only sleep 2 hours and go back to work at 4 a.m. to prep.

After 3 years working the banquet hall, I was assigned to an elite group of chefs that handle special customers like the Imperial family and politicians. I had a bit of trouble at this time, all of the other chefs were trained in French cuisine and used French terminology, so I had to study up and really struggled.

I decided I wanted to leave in 1994 but my boss had asked me to stay on until after the busy period which would end around January 25th of 1995. But on January 17th , the Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake struck and everything had been cancelled. I had organised to open my own restaurant but with all the damage and destruction that happened it was seemingly becoming impossible.

A friend from Righa Royal, was sent to France to study, so I decided to do the same. I worked at a French Restaurant, learning about “What is French” and how they do their presentation, using delicious ingredients.

But I felt that French was a special, unique food that wouldn’t be popular enough in Japan for me to make a thriving business.I decided to open an Izakaya, but it didn’t go well, I couldn’t think of a menu and had no passion to make omelette rolls all day. I studied French cooking, not Japanese Izakaya style, in hindsight it wasn’t for me.One day I suddenly made a French potato Gratin, and my customer were really please with it.

I started thinking about converting my Izakaya to a French Style Bistro, something authentic and unique at the time. I became very focused on quality French Ingredients and introducing them to the people of kansai.

Gradually business started picking up, but it was tough in the beginning. At first, I tried to maintain a reasonable price for my dishes, but as time grew, I began to focus more on the quality and so it became a little more expensive.

But for the age bracket of customers I have, higher quality is more important to them and to me. Sometimes I can get unique game and meats from Hokkaido or imported from France, I always buy them, but not necessarily for the restaurant. Sometimes it's just for me to enjoy cooking them.

When did you first buy a Sakai Ichimonji Kitchen knife?

A friend of mine who had a restaurant in Kobe, suggested I visit Sakai Ichimonji to buy my kitchen knives. I found that a lot of kitchen knife makers, recommended what they want to sell, not what the customer needs or wants.

Sakai Ichimonji really looked at my needs and tried to find the right product to suit me. FV10 is not only sharp, but also very familiar and easy to use. Sakai Ichimonji’s FV10 series were recommended to me. I felt they had a good cutting edge, and the balance was good in my hand too.

In France, cutting is only one part of the cooking process, but in Japan for sashimi for example, it is the whole process. You really need sharp knives to cut cleanly so as not to damage the produce and keep the true flavour.

I’ve found the Sakai Ichimonji FV10 kitchen knives to offer the right balance of durability and sharpness for me, I can cut hundreds of onions without needing to resharpen.

It’s important to me to offer high class French Cuisine for my customers, and it’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. I hope everyone can experience Authentic French cuisine.

Restaurant Information


Time Lunch 12: 00 ~ 13: 30LO Dinner 18: 00 ~ 21: 00LO

Regular holiday  Monday, closed on the 3rd Sunday

Address 1-9-18 Sagisu, Fukushima-ku, Osaka-shi, Osaka

Reservation TEL / FAX: 06-6451-0740

HP       http://www.onishitei.com

Buy Chef Onishi's favorite Sakai Ichimonji knives