Piero was one of seven chefs that travelled to Japan for the Seven Samurai Chef Tour earlier this year as well as the winner of the competition that took place at the end. This is his blog of the different adventures that took place during his stay. Upon winning the competition he stated, "I'm absolutely thrilled that ANA has selected Donburi N7 as the winning dish. Japanese culture has always been a big inspiration to me and the culinary tour was a great opportunity to see Japan and discover it’s outstanding produce and ancient cooking traditions. I’m honoured and excited to see the dish on ANA’s new menu and hope passengers enjoy it.” You can find out more about the Seven Samurai Chef Tour here.
Sunday, 17 January - Day 1.
I met the other 6 Samurai chefs at Orrery restaurant today. We were given a small introduction to ANA and Japanese culture followed by a nice lunch and then we headed for the Heathrow airport.
Monday, 18 January - Day 2
We landed in Tokyo in the afternoon and headed for the hotel where we were booked for a tempura dinner. We tried to submerge ourselves into the Japanese culture so we order Sake!
The tempura was very nice and crispy and apparently the chef who prepared it had been doing it for 25 years. Cooking tempura is a knowledge that is earned by spending time in all sections of the kitchen.
Tuesday, 19 January - Day 3
I met the rest of the team at 3:50am and we headed for the Tsukiji fish market.
The place was buzzing with people everywhere and obviously a lot of fish. One of the things that I noticed most is that it didn't smell at all. The fish was extremely fresh and the place was very tidy.
We also attended a tuna auction where the biggest fish went for more than £25,000.
Then we headed back to the hotel for breakfast and to freshen up. Following this, we headed on a tour of Tokyo both on foot and also using the metro.
Our first stop was the Senso-ji Temple. I got to make an offering to the gods and in return, I picked up a stick with a number that corresponded to a message of "luck".
Apparently it is very common for Japanese people to travel to the shrine on the first days of the year in order to make an offer for good luck for the year ahead.
We stopped by at Kappabashi, the catering quarter and then Nakamise, the Imperial Palace and Ginza.
The day ended with a Kaiseki tofu dinner at a traditional Japanese house.
Wednesday, 20 January - Day 4
We took Shinkansen (the bullet train) early on our way to Nagoya. Passing by Mount Fuji was surreal as I felt like I was in a cartoon that I used to watch sometimes as a kid.
Once at Nagoya, we were taken on a tour of Okage Yokocho and the Ise Grand Shrine. It was an amazing place that felt special and light, unlike some places that I know back in Italy such as the Vatican. Apparently they rebuild almost everything every 20 years and recycle all the wood for other uses.
Our next stop was at Tempaku where we went to a bonito factory.
We arrived at a traditionally Ryokan hotel where the governor of Toba greeted us along with the city mayor and many more. I met the most amazing people with campai (cheers) going around with beer and sake offerings that the governor poured himself.
Thursday, 21 January - Day 5
I woke up at 5am, slightly jetlagged but to a beautiful view.
We headed for the Mikimoto Pearl Island and went on a tour of the museum. We also watched the women divers which was another traditional experience. Everyone seemed to be so in tune with what they do, as if they were born to do it.
We proceeded to take a boat to Toshijima to make some nor seaweed.
Once back at the hotel, we attended a cooking demonstration by the Toba Hotel head chef and made the newspaper. This was followed by a tempura, sushi and nabe dinner that we cooked ourselves.
Friday, 22 January - Day 6
Today, we left for Osaka and we were free for the day. We explored the city, had ramen and went sightseeing. Everything was a discovery and we all loved it.
Saturday, 23 January - Day 7
Today's adventure started at Kameoka to visit a Soya Factory.
We then headed to a traditional Japanese restaurant that only contains seasonal ingredients harvested from nature. There was a brief stop at Kyoto where we got to try amazing street food. Finally, we had a typical Sayonara Party for our final night out.
Sunday, 24 January - Day 8
Sadly, the trip has come to an end. I still have time to buy a Kimono for my wife!
This was an absolutely wonderful experience that left me thinking about the way we operate in our daily lives and the ancient culture gave it so much meaning behind everything.
I will go back for more, that's for sure.
To find out more about what the Seven Samurai Chef Tour entails of, click here.