Tokyo Taste-The World Summit of Gastronomy 2009

February 2009

The opening ceremony.

  • Over the course of three days between February 9th and 11th, the Tokyo International Forum hosted about 5,000 visitors at Tokyo Taste - The World Summit of Gastronomy 2009. Twenty-one celebrated chefs from eight countries around the globe came to Tokyo to display their gastronomic philosophy by way of their superb cuisine.

    Following the opening ceremony on the 9th, the summit commenced with a discussion that centered on the theme "culinary exchange between East and West" and was moderated by Dr. Yukio Hattori. Ferran Adria (El Bulli/Spain), Joel Robuchon (L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon/France), Heston Blumenthal (The Fat Duck/UK), and Nobuyuki Matsuhisa (Nobu/USA) sat on the panel. The energetic discussion lasted over an hour and a half and covered a wide range of topics, including the meeting of the West and the East in the culinary world, their views on the indispensable Japanese stock dashi and umami, and food safety and health.

    Mr. Blumenthal noted that at the umami seminar organized by the Umami Information Center (UIC) in Kyoto in 2004, one of the topics discussed was science and cuisine. He recalled that the dashi and umami-richness of Japanese cuisine that he first came to know through this discussion were now key to his thinking. "The Japanese have known and employed umami from ancient times, while Western cuisine has never strictly recognized it, even though it has become part of common practice through the combination of foods such as tomatoes and Parmesan cheese. It is a deeply cultivated flavor."

    Mr. Matsuhisa explained that umami is an extremely delicate flavor that has come to be a globally-recognized word, and science has proven that it is a taste produced by amino acids and nucleotides such as glutamate and inosinate. "And yet," he continued, "the word 'umami,' used by Japanese to express the idea of good taste, is somehow not the same. In order to incorporate the Japanese washoku tradition into non-Japanese cuisines, one must be able to understand and utilize foods particular to the region. Through the creative use of these foods, the Japanese concept of umami can emerge, and those who partake of it will begin to grasp what Japanese cooking truly is."

    On the second day, a number of the participating chefs gave presentations that focused on the themes of "umami" and "dashi." And distinguished English chef Heston Blumenthal was able to bring to life - through the dishes that he prepared - the concept of umami that he'd shared during the previous day's discussion.

    Chef Kunio Tokuoka (Kyoto Kitcho/Japan) gave the summit's final presentation accompanied by the sound of the traditional koto. Embracing the theme "Umami, Fragrance and Texture," he enchanted the audience with his culinary vision. His first creation was hassun, a seasonally based dish that plays the role of appetizer in the Japanese kaiseki tradition. Then came a clear chicken soup, tori ushio jiru, served alongside chicken prepared with kombu dashi to boost the umami flavor. A fish course followed; two pieces of amadai, one steamed in sake, the other broiled on a hot stone, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese and dipped in tomato sauce, creating a world of umami flavors in a single dish. He finished with the "pure risotto" with which he wowed American gourmets at his Masterpiece Dining event at the James Beard House last year in July. He noted that interest in umami has risen throughout the world, and spoke about his wealth of experience at international cooking exhibitions. His allotted hour seemed to fly by in an instant.

    The three days of the World Summit of Gastronomy were a delight; a perfect occasion to remind the world that umami is a treasure of Japanese cuisine, and one upon which top chefs the world over have brought their original culinary philosophies to bear. The summit's name, "Tokyo Taste," also served as a reminder that umami is decidedly the flavor of Tokyo.

  • The opening ceremony.

    Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, Ferran Adria, Joel Robuchon and Heston Blumenthal sat on the panel. The energetic discussion covered a wide range of topics.

    A demonstration by Mr.Heston Blumenthal.

    A demonstration by Chef Kunio Tokuoka(Kyoto Kitcho/Japan).

    A fish course created by Chef Kunio Tokuoka(Kyoto Kitcho/Japan).

    The closing ceremony.

  • Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, Ferran Adria, Joel Robuchon and Heston Blumenthal sat on the panel. The energetic discussion covered a wide range of topics.

    A demonstration by Mr.Heston Blumenthal.

    A demonstration by Chef Kunio Tokuoka(Kyoto Kitcho/Japan).

    A fish course created by Chef Kunio Tokuoka(Kyoto Kitcho/Japan).

    The closing ceremony.