Leading Tokyo culinary school spreading art of ‘washoku’ across the globe

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By Takaki Tominaga

Gastronomy students from around the globe are learning how to master traditional Japanese cuisine — known as washoku — in Tokyo, with the added bonus that they can obtain a diploma from one of the world’s most famous culinary schools.

Le Cordon Bleu launched a Japanese cuisine program at its Tokyo campus last month, four years after the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization recognized washoku as an intangible cultural heritage, sparking increasing demands for Japanese cuisine in the global market.

“The finesse of washoku appeals to a lot of people. It is very detail oriented and requires craftiness,” Kiyoaki Deki, 55, technical director of Japanese cuisine at Le Cordon Bleu Japan, explained in an interview.

The six-month diploma program teaches comprehensive skills and knowledge of authentic washoku and its culture, and has attracted a multinational student body.

“I wanted to attend this course to get more inspiration,” said Lin Chen-chiang, 35, who runs a ramen shop in Taiwan, adding that he is learning something new about washoku every day.

According to Deki, a growth in health awareness is another reason why washoku is gaining popularity. “There are Japanese cuisine dishes that do not use animal derivatives, such as shojin ryori (devotion cuisine). We teach that in our program also and students have been very much interested in those sorts of dishes,” he said.

The Cordon Bleu network consists of over 35 institutions in 20 countries dedicated to offering top-quality culinary and hospitality programs. Established as a culinary arts school in Paris in 1895 by journalist Marthe Distel, also the publisher of La Cuisiniere Cordon Bleu magazine, it has been integrating its French techniques into a variety of world cuisines.

The Japanese cuisine diploma program consists of four certificate courses — initiation, basic, intermediate and superior — and the diploma is awarded upon completion of the four levels.

In the initiation course, students learn fundamental techniques such as knife skills, the philosophy of Japanese cuisine and key cooking methods — skills they continue to develop in the basic course, which focuses on ingredients, recipes and plate presentation.

Students learn more advanced techniques in the intermediate course, where they delve deeper into traditional Japanese cooking as well as its application to regional and modern Japanese cuisine. The superior course offers the chance to refine and further deepen their knowledge and skills in order to pursue culinary careers, the institution said.

Students must stick to the curriculum, so all courses must be taken level by level.

During a lecture on tempura, or deep fried dishes, Deki explained through an interpreter a range of topics, including the price differences for various types of seafood.

Before the frying demonstration by the chef, some students took part in slicing conger eel in front of other students. Deki provided detailed step-by-step instructions on the slicing method.

He talked up the importance in washoku cooking of memorizing recipes rather than relying on measurements.

“It is also useful to remember the ratio of ingredients when making tempura sauce, rather than in actual grams, because sometimes you don’t have a scale,” he said.

There was a mirror underneath the ceiling over a cooking space, so that students seated in the back of the class room could see what the chef was doing.

“You need to pay attention to the sizzling sound of fried dishes” to figure out whether the oil temperature is right, Deki, explained as the students gathered around. “It is extremely important in washoku cooking that you utilize all five senses and ‘feel it’.”

After fried dishes were laid out in a basket for presentation, students took photos of the food and later fried their own tempura.

“In our program, students can experience something they cannot experience anywhere else. I hope they will take those skills and that knowledge back to their own countries and spread authentic Japanese cuisine there,” Deki said.

© KYODO

Source  :  Japan Today

Toshiba set to OK $5 billion injection Monday to stay listed

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By Taro Fuse

Toshiba Corp will decide on Monday to raise some $5 billion from overseas investors, allowing the troubled conglomerate to remain a publicly traded company even if the sale of a key business is delayed, two people with direct knowledge of the process said.

Toshiba, reeling from the bankruptcy of its U.S. nuclear unit Westinghouse Co in the wake of an accounting scandal, needs to raise 750 billion yen ($6.7 billion) by the end of March to avoid being kicked off the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

The laptops-to-nuclear-reactors company has agreed to sell its prized NAND semiconductor unit for $18 billion, and is planning to sell its TV business and reportedly looking to hive off its personal-computer unit to raise cash.

But with the March deadline looming to avoid delisting and the chip sale threatened by antitrust concerns from China and elsewhere, Toshiba’s board will on Monday approve a plan to raise 600 billion yen ($5.3 billion) by offering shares to a group of overseas investors, the sources said.

In addition, the sources told Reuters, Toshiba will agree to take upfront losses that will allow tax write-offs sufficient to boost its assets back above liabilities for the first time in two years – allowing the firm to remain listed.

Toshiba declined to comment on the plan.

To plug the huge hole in its balance sheet, Toshiba agreed in late September to sell its Toshiba Memory unit to a group led by Bain Capital for $18 billion.

But regulatory reviews globally threaten its ability to close the sale by the March end of the business year, which would put the company in negative net worth for a second year in a row, imperilling its TSE listing.

Without any gains from the chip unit sale, Toshiba forecasts it would post negative net worth of 750 billion yen at the end of March.

The company could use the proceeds from a share allotment to pay all at once the $5.8 billion in parent-company guarantees on Westinghouse’s much-delayed nuclear projects in the United States, one source said.

The current plan is to guarantee payments to two U.S. power utilities over six years. Paying them off in full now would allow Toshiba to book losses that would reduce its tax burden enough to ensure it has the cash to remain listed, the source said.

© Thomson Reuters 2017.

Source  :  Japan Today

Poor catches lift salmon, saury prices

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Prices for salmon and saury have been rising sharply in Japan due to poor catches in the North Pacific, likely affecting households as the year-end shopping season begins.

In Hokkaido, which accounts for 70 to 80 percent of the nationwide autumn salmon catch, this season’s haul declined more than 30 percent in the period through Nov. 10 from a year earlier to around 15.3 million salmon, according to the fishery management division of the country’s northernmost prefecture.

Wholesale prices for autumn salmon stood at 1,080 yen per kilogram for the week through Nov 9 in Tokyo’s Tsukiji market, up about 50 percent from a year before.

The poor catch of autumn salmon, observed since last year, is believed to be a result of many fries having failed to survive a fall in seawater temperatures several years ago, the Hokkaido Research Organization said.

Salmon roe prices also increased, with the average wholesale price expanding nearly 1.5 times to 7,485 yen per kilogram in October from the same month a year ago, the Sapporo Central Wholesale Market said.

In Hokkaido, a series of incidents have occurred recently in which salmon roe was stolen from the abdomens of female salmon at incubation facilities.

In addition, fishermen are struggling with a poor catch of saury, a slender but fatty fish to be eaten particularly in fall in Japan.

The nationwide catch of the fish totaled 45,756 tons as of Oct. 31, a fishery cooperative for saury in Tokyo said, expecting the annual catch to be the lowest since 1976 when it came to below 100,000 tons. Wholesale prices for saury rose nearly 30 percent in Tsukiji from a year earlier.

The Fisheries Agency said the changes in seawater temperatures could have diverted migration routes, resulting in the poor catch of saury.

Major seafood company Maruha Nichiro Corp will pass the higher costs on to consumers, planning to raise the price of its canned products using salmon by 30 yen and saury by 40 to 80 yen from January next year.

© KYODO

Source  :  Japan Today