Judy Cogan31 Mar 2016 AT 09:40 AM

The Last Word: Chef Kiichi Okabe

Okku Dubai’s chef de cuisine reflects on his very recent past.
Judy Cogan31 Mar 2016 AT 09:40 AM
Chef Kiichi Okabe
Chef Kiichi Okabe
Okku, Chef Kiichi Okabe, The last word, Food & drink

He’s the Okku sushi mastermind that’s bursting with personality and culinary talent, as well as a passion for Japanese food – any food, in fact, and all that goes with it. Chef Kiichi Okabe started his career in Ebisu, Tokyo, and while learning from the best he perfected his skills in Japanese and international cuisine before moving on to work in America and now Dubai. While running Okku’s kitchen, he creates authentic Japanese dishes in an atmosphere that must be a lot of fun.

What was the last thing you did before answering these questions?
I prepared the garnishes for a new dessert. Whenever we create a new dessert, each one has to undergo weeks of tasting and tweaking before making the cut. Even then, they may not always make it to the menu, but the ones that do are always worth the wait.

Who designed the last suit you bought?
I actually bought it from Ted Baker. It’s a traditional English style two-button, two-pocket, single-breasted jacket, tailored in light wool and in a midnight grey shade... #SamuraiChic!

What’s the last meal you cooked yourself?
During a recent training session with my team, we produced a contemporary variant of shrimp yuzu ceviche – consisting of rock shrimp, baby heirloom tomatoes, cilantro, red onion, elephant garlic and Japanese citrus extract. When marinating, we infuse it with Kosho (green pepper) purée.

What’s the last restaurant you went to and thought “I wish I’d thought of this…”?
It has to be L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon at MGM Grand Hotel, Las Vegas. It has such a vast selection of dishes, as well as the opulent French décor, private dining areas coupled with a chic maison feel. I had the finely shaved foie gras terrine with a truffle salad. Delicious.

When was the last time you did something for the first time?
Usually, I take taxis here in Dubai because it is always an adventure. You never know where you will end up or how much it will cost! But I drove for the first time in Dubai very recently and it was scary and very confusing, too.

Where and when was the last massage you had?
It was quite a long time ago at Mandara Spa at The H Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road. I would love to have one weekly, which is highly recommended for people in my line of work, but somehow I never manage to fit them in. The atmosphere made me feel really peaceful from the moment I walked in.

What was the last thing you gave up?
My motto is to never give up anything. I don’t know, “give up”. It’s not in my vocabulary.

What was the last good joke you heard?
It was a dirty joke, so it’s one not to be shared, sadly!

Where was your last holiday?
Hawaii, the Big Island Waikoloa. I was there for one week, but I used to live and work there at the Hilton. I love going back to Hawaii, it’s one of the few places other than Japan where I truly feel at home.

What was the last truly memorable meal you ate?
I was in the Azabu Prefecture near Roppongi in Tokyo at a little-known restaurant named Itosho – an authentic Japanese experience. It is split into two intimate private dining rooms. Only one reservation is allowed per room per evening, and bookings must be made a minimum of 90 days in advance. The owner, Mr Ito, trained at a Kaiseki restaurant in Gifu, Japan, and has since earned a Michelin star. I absolutely love it. To me, it feels like a cross between a local home and a small temple.

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