Celebrity chef, Nobu Matsuhisa, is known for his incredible restaurants and delicious sushi. But what’s below his chef’s hat? In his memoir, NOBU, Matsuhisa shares his pathway to his success through perseverance and passion.
I often encourage young people to choose the work they like without worrying about job conditions or social status. If you choose the path that calls, if you do the work you love, you will pour your passion into it and that will help you overcome any difficulties. The more hurdles you clear, the more confident you will become in your ability to clear them. The more you persevere, the smaller each new obstacle will appear. Whenever you aren’t sure, trust your intuition. Instead of focusing on things like earnings or status, just choose the work that you feel you will enjoy. That is your compass.
If a certain path feels right, take it. You can always change direction if you realize along the way that it was not the right choice. As long as you have passion, no detour is painful. As long as you live your life to the fullest, results will always come. Even if you fail, someone will always help you if they see that you are sincerely doing your best. I was able to come this far thanks to the help of many people along the way. That is why I want to help others as much as I can. I want to repay the kindness of those who helped me when I was young by extending the same support to upcoming generations. Sometimes that kindness may be betrayed. Sometimes I may be deceived. But I would rather be deceived than deceive others.
We caught up with Nobu at a book signing to ask him a few more questions about his process and life…
Why a memoir? Why now?
We now have thirty-eight Nobu restaurants around the world.
I get asked all the time by guests what made me want to be a chef. A lot of people know the Nobu name, but don’t know how I became a chef or how it all began. I thought it would be nice to share my story. I am also getting older, and the timing just felt right to do a memoir.
Tell us about the day you decided to become a sushi chef.
When I was younger, my older brother took me to a sushi restaurant. I loved the energy, and it tasted so good. That’s when I decided that I wanted to be a chef. When I was young, around 10 to 12 years old, this became my dream.
You spend 10 months a year traveling around the world. Why?
I travel 10 months a year because we have restaurants on five continents. I feel like my team is my family, and I like to see my family. Also, I communicate with the chefs to find out what’s going on, learn about new recipes, and work with them to develop new dishes. I always want to be connected with what’s going on with each of my restaurants, especially in the kitchen.
What makes Nobu special?
My philosophy is “good food and good service in a beautiful and comfortable setting” And to always cook with passion. I think that is what makes Nobu special. Our guests see and feel these things, and I think that is why they come back.
What do you have to have in every kitchen?
The freshest ingredients, the best products, and, most importantly, passion.
What books are on your nightstand? Is there one in particular that continues to inspire you?
I don’t really have too much time to read, and when I do, it usually business related.
Tell us about meeting Robert De Niro.
The first time I met Bob was at my restaurant Matsuhisa in Beverly Hills. I had no idea who he was. He’s a very quiet person who likes my food. I felt comfortable talking to him. One day he asked me to come to New York, he wanted to open a restaurant in Tribeca.
I went to New York and he told me his dream of opening a Nobu in New York. This was around the time Matsuhisa opened. The space that he chose wasn’t right for a Nobu restaurant (it later became the Tribeca Grill).
Matsuhisa was only opened for two years, and I couldn’t imagine opening another restaurant somewhere else. Although Bob’s proposal was very attractive, I needed to have a solid foundation for Matsuhisa first. Bob continued to come into Matsuhisa over the years, and became a regular guest, but respected my decision and did not mention the New York restaurant for many years. Then, four years after I turned down his initial offer, he called me at home and asked “How about now?”
It dawned on me that he waited four years, and that showed me that I can trust him. I went back to New York, saw a new space in Tribeca, and we agreed to start a partnership. We opened the first Nobu in Tribeca in 1994.
Remember to always prioritize the things that bring you joy.