5 Minutes With Chef Nobu Matsuhisa
Talking hotels, tequila, the origin of yelllowtail jalapeño, and jet lag
JM: Before we get started just wanted to thank you for having made such an impact on the restaurant industry, having created one of the most impressive global brands — the accomplishments are staggering. So tell me in the world of Nobu, which is always growing, what’s new?
NM: We are opening several new hotels with residences and restaurants in the next few years. I am also very excited for the launch of my new tequila. I love tequila and waited for a long time for the right partner to come along. When I tried Qui Tequila I knew the wait was worth it.
I'm interested in highly driven and successful people and what’s their primary routine. What’s yours?
I travel 10 months out of the year, visiting all of my restaurants and hotels around the world. I am an early riser and I like to start my day off with some sort of physical activity, especially after a long day of travel. If the weather is nice, I go for a swim or I do the treadmill at the gym. Most days though, I like to do stretches. I then have breakfast with my team and go over the schedule for the day. I usually spend a great deal of time in the kitchen meeting with my chefs tasting everything, making sure the dishes are consistent.
Back to your tequila: How do you drink it?
Normally I would do tequila shots, but, after tasting the Nobu Rare 2008 Reserve, I prefer to sip my tequila. Either with a large ice cube or neat. The finish is so smooth and distinct that I want to savor every drop of the liquid.
I love that in nearly every major city I can find a Nobu and trust that I will have a high quality dining experience. How many locations do you have now? What year did Matsuhisa open? And Nobu Tribeca?
We have 53 Nobu restaurants around the world. Matsuhisa opened in 1987 and the original Nobu in Tribeca opened in 1994.
Do you have a personal favorite dish on menu?
I can’t pick just one. My dishes are like my children; you can’t choose favorites.
You must be the considered the inventor of yellowtail jalapeño: How did that creation happen?
After a charity event in Hawaii, we held a staff party. I took what was left in the kitchen after the event and attempted to make a few dishes for the staff. There was plenty of yellowtail left over, but all of the spices were gone. I did, however, find an abundance of jalapeño. Using the chili on the raw fish, I created what is now one of Nobu’s most popular dishes, yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño.
Where do you eat most frequently that's not your own venue in New York City, Los Angeles, or London?
At home with my wife, She is an excellent cook and I enjoy eating her food.
Is there a restaurant you would still love to create that is not a Nobu?
I don’t think so. This is my dream. This is what I wake up and do every day for the last 36 years.
Given how much you travel, what is your best travel tip?
The best cure for jet lag is exercise.
Did you have a culinary mentor as a young chef?
As a child, I was inspired by my mother and grandmother. They were both excellent cooks.
Read more about Nobu and his special Qui collaboration, here. And to purchase of of the 1500 bottles shop here.
And for fun, I asked ChatGPT, “Why is Nobu’s Yellowtail Jalapeño the most copied dish in the world”? Here was the reply:
Nobu Yellowtail Jalapeño is a highly sought-after and popular dish because it combines traditional Japanese ingredients with a spicy kick from jalapeño peppers. The dish features thinly sliced raw yellowtail fish that is drizzled with a yuzu soy sauce and topped with jalapeño slices.
There are several reasons why this dish has become one of the most copied dishes in the culinary world. Firstly, it is a visually stunning dish that features vibrant colors and contrasting textures, making it a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. The combination of the tangy yuzu soy sauce, the delicate raw fish, and the spicy jalapeño creates a unique flavor profile that is both complex and balanced.
Secondly, Nobu Matsuhisa, the chef behind the dish, has built a reputation as a culinary innovator and trendsetter. His restaurants, including Nobu, have become global icons in the world of fine dining, and his dishes are often imitated by other chefs who seek to replicate his success.
Finally, the dish has gained a cult following among foodies and influencers, who have helped to spread its popularity on social media platforms like Instagram. As a result, it has become a staple of modern Japanese cuisine, and its influence can be seen in dishes served in restaurants around the world.