It’s without a doubt that the inaugural Taste of Abu Dhabi was a hit. The crowds were dense, the food was in abundance, and the invited guests wow’d the crowds with their impressive talents. One of the biggest highlights for me were the celebrity chefs, particularly Chef Jun Tanaka. Chef Jun’s culinary prestige and charm drew standing-room only crowds in the OSN Chef’s Theatre. Foodies and general attendees alike were marveled by his ability to dazzled adorning eyes while delving meticulously into entree preparations. After each session, lucky attendees had the opportunity to sample the entrees, chat with Chef Jun, get their books autographed and snap a few photos.
Luckily, I was able take a few candid snaps and grabbed an opportunity to ask Chef Jun a few questions.
For those who are new to the area or newbie foodies, here’s what Chef Jun shared with me.
If you could pinpoint one event, person, or mood that inspired your love for food, what or who would it be?
My love of food came from my Mother. It’s a bit of a cliché but true. She’s a fantastic cook and growing up, the family dinner was the highlight of my day. It was a natural progression from enjoying eating food to wanting to know how to cook it.
When we think about the Jun Tanaka experience, we think two things: gourmet street food and exquisite high-end foods. Tell me about this marriage between gourmet and street foods?
They’re not as different as you might think at first. You can’t have great food without quality produce. This is true whether it’s street food or high end dining. The main difference is presentation and price point.
In one of your previous interviews, you noted Thailand has having the best street food experiences to date, what other cities compare to the Thailand experience?
Japan has incredible street food.
High-end foods are anchored in presentation. How creative does a chef need to be in order to maintain the integrity of taste without compromising aesthetics?
Taste should always be the ultimate goal. It’s easy to focus too much on aesthetics and lose site of what’s most important. I would always perfect the flavors of a dish first then work on the presentation and never put something on a plate just because it looks good.
Home or intimate dining experience can vary greatly from restaurant experiences. If you were to prepare a 3 course dinner for your closest friends, what would it be and why?
It would depend on the time of year, as food has to follow the seasons. So, if I was to cook a dinner now, it will be an Autumn menu. I would start with oysters with pickled cucumber as it’s the oyster season and it’s always good to start the meal with something acidic to get the mouth watering. The main would be venison loin cooked in a spiced salt crust – this is the dish that I’ll be cooking at Taste of Abu Dhabi and for dessert it has to be a Tart tatin with walnut ice cream. It’s the best time of the year for English apples and fresh walnuts. I’m a firm believer that you should be able to tell what season it is by the food on your plate.
Within your own home, what’s the one utensil, besides the basics, and one ingredient that you must have?
A Japanese mandolin – it’s very useful for finely slicing vegetables.
Speaking of ingredients, could you help me to solve the great American debate? Salt?; spice or no?
Salt is not a spice, it’s a mineral. Also, all spices gradually lose flavor over time but salt does not.
There are a wealth of inspiring chefs, what’s one piece of advice would you share that you wish was shared with you?
Be curious and ask questions when you’re working. The kitchen is a wealth of knowledge and not just from the head chef. Make the most of each day you work.
It is without a doubt that Chef Jun has mastered his craft. He continues to make strides in every arena of the culinary arts. Be sure to check out Chef Jun on the Taste Tours and his book, Simple to Sensational.