Keiji Matoba – Japanese Corporate Executive Chef at Aman
Tokyo-born Keiji Matoba holds the prestigious position of Japanese Corporate Executive Chef at Aman. He is responsible for overseeing the luxury hotel group’s new culinary concept, Nama, which was inaugurated at Amanpuri in Thailand.
Chef Matoba has always worked with Japanese food. After training in Japan for a decade, he took on the role of sous chef at Michelin-starred Yamamoto at Hotel Okura in Amsterdam, then spent a year as executive chef at Hide Yamamoto in Singapore. He then moved to Switzerland to launch The Chedi in Andermatt’s new Japanese restaurant. His menu earned 15 Gault Millau points.
We speak to Chef Matoba now about his move to Aman, the concept behind “nama”, which means “raw”, and his culinary inspirations.
Please tell us a little about the new Aman concept: Nama.
Nama explores the intricate techniques of the UNESCO-recognised tradition of Washoku, offering delicately crafted sushi and sashimi at the heart of a menu, celebrating a style of cuisine that elevates cooking to an art form that takes years to perfect.
Nama is authentic Japanese cuisine with an emphasis on seasonality and locally sourced ingredients. Dishes are simple but sophisticated and use age-old preparation techniques of the Japanese kitchen.
The concept will be incorporated into Aman hotels beyond Amanpuri – which hotels will have this concept? Will you be personally overseeing them all?
Yes, I will be overseeing all Nama restaurants. In addition to Amanpuri in Phuket, the concept has so far been inaugurated at Amanpulo on Pamalican Island in the Philippines, and Aman Le Mélézin in Courchevel, France.
We’ll be launching the concept at other Aman destinations; the menus will be subtly adjusted according to the ingredient possibilities presented by each locale.
You are now based in Phuket but have travelled and worked all over the world, and were first inspired to become a chef as a young man in New York. Travel must be a big part of your culinary life.
Yes, I often travel for work as I oversee the Nama restaurants in the various Aman properties.
My time in New York made me realise the difference between Western and Japanese culture, which is one of the reasons I wanted to introduce Japanese food and culture into the Western world.
You trained for seven years as a tempura chef in the Ritz-Carlton, Osaka – what was this experience like?
The main takeaway during my training at Ritz-Carlton, Osaka was not limited to tempura alone, I also learned and honed basic Japanese cuisine and skills.
You worked with acclaimed chef Hide Yamamoto at The Chedi in Andermatt, Switzerland to launch the hotel’s Japanese restaurant. What was this experience like?
It was an amazing experience as I had the opportunity to bring the concept of a kaiseki restaurant to Europe for the first time.
How would you describe your style of cooking? How important is Washoku to you?
My cooking style can be described as experiential. I utilise all my senses. It is very important to recognise the concept of Washoku as an authentic and unique cooking method which must be preserved and cultivated for future generations.
You are inspired by Japanese landscape architect Mirei Shigemori – what is it about his work that inspires you?
The simplicity yet abstract design of his architectural style has influenced the way my dishes are presented.
Thank you, Chef Matoba, and all the best for launching your menus at more Aman hotels.
Chef Matoba shares this delicious recipe for lightly seared yellow fin tuna, or maguro tataki.
Find the full recipe in our category “Recipes of the top chefs”: Click
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