Chef of the Week: Keita Sato, Executive Head Sushi Chef at Chotto Matte in London

How long have you worked at your current restaurant?
I’ve been at Chotto Matte Soho for 10 years, since the very beginning!

Where did your passion for cooking come from and where did you learn your skills?
My father took me out fishing on the river in Japan from a young age, it was that which sparked my initial interest in the industry. He taught me traditional Japanese cooking techniques, before I went on to refine my skills working at many great restaurants, including Sushi Den Kihara in Japan and London’s Nobu.

What do you enjoy most about being a chef?
Putting a smile on guest’s faces! Genuine customer satisfaction is the goal. I also love watching art come to life in the form of sushi.

Name three ingredients you couldn’t cook without.
Salt – it’s fundamental for enhancing and balancing flavours.
Oil – key for bringing everything together, adding moisture and adding shine and crisp.
Kombu – a traditional Japanese ingredient.

Which piece of kitchen equipment couldn’t you live without?
Yanagi – a unique and special Japanese knife influenced by the original katana sword, the precision is unlike any other!

What food trends are you spotting at the moment?
Crispy sushi is becoming increasingly popular – we also serve a vegan version too! A small bite size is the best.

What do you think is a common mistake that lets chefs down?
Poor time management, timing is everything! Also, not rushing the dishes – making sure everything is exactly how it should be before it leaves the counter is key to the guest experience.

What is your favourite time of year for food, and why?
Autumn, say September to November. In Britain in particular, the seafood produce is much fresher. The Dover sole’s bigger, so on and so forth.

Which of your dishes are you most proud of?
I am so proud of the Sato Maki, our iconic sushi roll that has my name on it. It’s flamed at the table for theatrical value, it’s known worldwide and is served as a staple in all of our Chotto Matte restaurants. More recently, I’m also proud of our Dragon roll and new Tiger roll!

How do you come up with new dishes?
It’s a lot of experimenting and taking inspiration from visiting different locations. It’s a lot of working collaboratively with founder Kurt Zdesar and Executive Head Chef Jordan Sclare on creating and innovating recipes to find what works.

Who was your greatest influence?
The master chef when I was working in my hometown of Hakodate, I learnt so many fundamentals from him and I was in awe of how inspired he was by his passion. I will visit him when I travel to Japan this summer.

Tell us three chefs you admire.
Ferran Adria, Jiro Ono and Nobu Matsuhisa.

What is your favourite cookbook?
Sushi Jiro Gastronomy by Jiro Ono. It’s a journey on the traditional basics of what it means to be a sushi chef, and takes me back to the original generation of sushi-making techniques.

What’s been your favourite new restaurant opening of the last year?
I have to say, it’s Chotto Matte Doha. Both the design and the ambience are incredible, from the cave-inspired private dining room, to the outdoor terrace. It was also amazing to be over there and experience the magic of it all coming together.