Q & A With Hideo Yamashiro, Part 2: The Importance of Cheese, Making People Happy + Why All It Takes is One Dish
In yesterday's first part of our interview with Hideo Yamashiro, the chef talked about fusion cuisine and his path from juggling knives at Benihana to pairing cheese and wine at Orris, his 6 year-old restaurant on Sawtelle Boulevard. In the second part of the interview (turn the page) Yamashiro resumes the discussion. And check back later for Yamashiro's recipe for curry-infused shrimp tempura, if you should feel like making it at home instead of ordering it at his restaurant, where the dish is currently on the menu.
Squid Ink: What are some of your favorite foods?
Hideo Yamashiro: I can't eat as much as I used to; before I used to eat cheese almost every day. I love the flavor. Some of my favorites are Spanish goat cheese, sheep milk and Roquefort cheese.
SI: You use a good amount of cheese in your menu at Orris.
HY: Cheese is just wonderful. So much character. Cheese is so, so different. Different areas have different flavors that tells a story. Wine is the same. Even if you make them [cheeses] the same way, each cave has different bacterias that brings a different flavor. Its not like the American McDonald's model, where you eat here and you taste the same flavor at different places. All cheese has a different character. I love how it's not the same. Cheeese. Oh, I love cheese. So much flavor. I used to eat cheese everyday but I have to watch my cholesterol now. Otherwise...
In France, how many different styles? I don't use as much cheese as Italian restaurants, but we use maybe four or five types: Manchego, burrata, Parmesan and a selection of cheeses from our cheese plate.
SI: Any favorite places to eat cheese?
HY: I love Ricky Moreno's food at Capo. I like his cooking. His flavors are very elegant and creative. His one dish: four cheese ravioli with white truffles. A little pricey, but so good. For me, its the most memorable dish in L.A. in the last ten years.
SI: Anywhere else?
HY: I also like Sushi Zo. Very traditional. I like to eat individually, so its a perfect place for that. But because of the recession I cannot go out as often as I would like. L.A. is kind of expensive for what I pay for because of rent and labor. For going to a 3 star restaurant, I'd rather go overseas and spend that money. Sure we have talented chefs in this country but talented chefs sometimes become money chasers. They open one restaurant, then a second and then many more and... no way you can make good food like that.
SI: So, you don't eat out a lot in L.A.?
HY: I don't go anymore. Its very inconsistent. One day good, the next day its another story. I don't feel like going out in L.A. anymore. I used to go to sushi places a lot, very consistent. I also love Mexican food. Mexican food is not complicated but there's a lot of flavor there.
Sure, I want to go to French restaurants but I don't know anymore. Not too many restaurants anymore. I'm just disappuointed. A lot of chefs are going to be mad at me. I criticize other chefs becase they cook with their [points to head] and not their [points to heart]. It's different. Cooking has become so academic. You go to school and get a recipe. Even if you have 1,000 recipes, if you don't have [points to heart], you have nothing. When I make a mistake cooking, it hurts. I want to make food as if I'm on a first date with a girl. That kind of meal.
I don't change my menu that often, but I make sure it's satisfying so that you want to eat it again. Eat it tomorrow or a week later and people want to still eat those dishes. I don't want to be fancy-shmancy, like cookbooks. My food is not visual. Our society is too visualized from T.V. and magazines. Too many pictures. People judge with their eyes; it's not only food but now everything is judged by how it looks. But I don't think my food is like that. It doesn't mean I don't care... but our society is just too visual.
SI: So, why do you cook?