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people 2013-09-14

You have to work from the heart

An Interview with Chef James Biaka, Executive Chef, Kofuku, Mumbai.

You have to work from the heart

In an exclusive interview with Franchise India, Chef Biaka talks about the Japanese food, its authencity and freshness.

What are the different types of cuisine served at your restaurant? Which is the most preferred?

Kofuku is a Japanese restaurant located in Bandra serving Japanese and Korean foods to the Mumbaikar.

Japanese is the most preferred cuisine among the visitors at our restaurant.

Tell something about the Japanese food?

Our (Japanese) menu is very much appreciated by Indians. Those who are coming to Mumbai or Kofuku, they now know about Japanese food. Before they did not know what Japanese food is; now they realize that the food is so fresh and healthy. Now we have lot of clients.” “We don’t do much of marketing here but I used to call my client and give good taste and good service. So again and again we have regular client and it grew. So we don’t do much marketing. Now it is 7-8 years in Mumbai and we have good clients and it is spreading. In the beginning, we went to Japanese embassy, consulate and big Japanese company to invite them personally. I also used to invite some celebrity friends and have a lounge party. From that time onwards they brought their own friends.

What are the things that you came along in designing your restaurant menu?

We have tried to use the traditional Japanese style both in menu designing and the design of our restaurant. The restaurant is decorated like a donburi (rice bowl dish) shop, with wood panels, tatami mats, paper lanterns, ornate wall hangings and flags bearing Japanese Kanji.

How receptive are Indian customer towards Japanese food? Who all are the customers?

The Indian customers are very receptive towards Japanese food. They know the freshness and healthiness of the food and so people here in Mumbai are comfortable with the food.

Mostly we have Japanese and Koreans living in Mumbai as our customers. Only high class people like the celebrities and models are the only customer in Indian society. The customer is divided in 50-50 ratio; half of the people are from the Indian society and the rest are Japanese living in Mumbai.

What is the supply chain management process at your restaurant?

We import all the things from Japan to India. Our boss is the only supplier, he imports all the raw materials and ingredients required to prepare a Japanese dish and supplies that to all the five star chains and restaurants in India. Palkit Intex Pvt Ltd is the company which supplies Japanese ingredients in India.

What is the concept bringing Japanese restaurant in Mumbai?

There is no authentic Japanese restaurant; Kofuku is the first restaurant serving authentic Japanese food. We are planning to expand all over in Mumbai and also in Delhi in near future. When a person walks into a restaurant, he gets the feel of being in Japan. We give a Japanese touch, like we have ‘tatami’ (low floor sitting). When we welcome the guest, we say ‘erashymate’; after eating food when they leave, we say ‘are gato gozhima’ (come again). We use this style in Kofutu. When I went to Japan also, I liked their style and their cooking. Now it has become a hobby for me.

 I saw Kofuku’s faceBook page but it is not updated regularly, Reason.

We don’t advertise ourselves much and we are not applying the typical marketing techniques. Kofuku is an authentic Japanese restaurant. We not only have good Japanese clients visiting our restaurant regularly, but also have high profile Indian clients loving our food. So, we don’t think it is necessary for us to market ourselves through networking sites.

How is your menu different from other restaurants? Who are your competitors?

We have gracefully assembled sashimi and sushi in our menu. The extensive sushi menu includes nigiri, maki rolls, and temaki, and we suggest getting the mixed platters for your first visit. The non-vegetarian sushi sampler had a commendable assortment of tuna, salmon, octopus and Hamachi nigiri. Mounds of pickled ginger and wasabi paste and a bottle of salty Kikkoman Soy Sauce is provided as the dipping sauce for the meal. The eight cylindrical pieces of maki, however, enclose slightly funky tasting pieces of mackerel. The sushi menu gives equal consideration to vegetarians, who can tuck into the excellent cream cheese rolls studded with crunchy pieces of avocado, cucumber, and asparagus.

We consider wasabi by Morimoto as our competitor, because as if now they are now a day the best restaurant serving authentic Japanese food.

Tell us something about your journey so far in the world of food? Who inspired you?

I love experimenting and learning about Japanese and Fusion food.  I started as a Sous Chef under a Japanese chef in Dahlia, a Japanese restaurant in Chennai. I was the Head Chef in Kyung Bong Kong Korean and Japanese restaurant which is in Chennai and also worked as an Executive Chef in Indage Hotel Tetsuma and Prive Japanese restaurant in Mumbai. Currently I am engaged as an Executive Chef, Kofuku, Mumbai.

When I was working for a restaurant, the chef was Japanese. He called me once to the kitchen and asked me to learn.  He called me for a week but that time I did have much interest. But the chef directly put me in the kitchen for cooking. When I told him that I had no idea about cooking he put me into washing utensils. Then slowly, step-by-step he encouraged me to become a chef. Now I like to cook Japanese food.

 Are you planning to open your own restaurant?

Yes I plan to open my own Japanese restaurant serving the delicious and authentic Japanese food here in Mumbai.

What advice would you like to give to people who want to become a chef?

You have to work hard; not simply working but working from the heart. Only then will he succeed.

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