Kyatchi's Hide Tozawa on Minnesota sushi bars: "Most aren't doing it right"
Sean McPherson Hide Tozawa in the kitchen at Kyatchi
Hide Tozawa is a chef on a mission to show Minnesota a different type of Japanese restaurant. His team at Kyatchi wants to take some of the cream cheese out of your roll and let you chew on something you might actually find in Tokyo. Hot Dish caught up with Tozawa on a recent Monday after he had finished prepping for dinner service.
Hot Dish: When you started out as a sushi chef were you concerned about sustainable ingredients?
Hide Tozawa: No. For most of my 18-year career that wasn't a priority. My career started in Minnesota, though my first experience was hanging around my aunt and uncle's sushi restaurant in Tokyo. I jumped in there but I didn't know what I wanted to do, so I don't count that as part of my career. I would get up early and go to the market for them, but not much else.
How did you get to Minnesota?
I came to the University of Minnesota to study, my parents sent me far away because I was a trouble-maker. I quit school two quarters short of graduation, but I wanted to stay in Minnesota for a little while longer. I would lose my status in this country if I stopped being a student. At that time Origami was looking for a chef who had sushi experience. That got me a work visa and a green card to remain in the country. In my career I have worked for Origami, Nami, Fuji-Ya, as a private chef for the Twins player Tsuyoshi Nishioka, and now in a leadership role for Kyatchi.
How has your style in the kitchen changed now that you are also running your restaurant?
It's a big change and it's a lot of pressure. When I left my position with Nishioka I took a year and worked for Fuji-Ya. I didn't know what was next for me, but I had bills to pay. I would go to work and I would be relaxed. But now, it's completely different. It's added pressure and I have too many things to do.
Sean McPherson The Tsukune Donburi at Kyatchi
Do you feel like being so busy takes you away from being able to do the work?
Being honest with you, yes. Not all the time, but sometimes. Most of the time I think 'I don't have a life right now.' But we are trying to do Japanese culture the right way here. Looking at other Japanese restaurants, I don't care what they do; it is their business. But to me as a Japanese chef from Japan, it seems most aren't doing it right.
What doesn't seem right?
Everything is wrong. Not everybody in town but most. And again, they can do whatever they want, but when I look at what they are doing, they shouldn't name themselves a Japanese restaurant or a sushi restaurant. Many people think how Minnesota serves up Japanese food is how we eat in Japan, but it's not.
Does Kyatchi have more in common with how people are eating in Tokyo?
I wouldn't say it's completely the same. There are so many different restaurants in Tokyo and Japan as a whole. But, if you look at my menu, especially sushi, there are no Americanized rolls. I made those things enough in my career in the United States. I want diners at Kyatchi to see what a single ingredient can create if it is done right. It's a different goal.