In the sixth episode of international chefs in Kyoto, we feature Chef Francesco Bianchi who is from Italy and is working as an apprentice at Kinobu, a prestige Ryotei in Kyoto. He was selected for an international internship program of Japanese cuisine hosted by Kyoto City Office, which is part of Japanese cuisine promotion abroad, and came to Japan in April, 2019. He has been learning Japanese cuisine since then.
I love light and delicate taste of Japanese cuisine that brings out the flavors of the ingredients.
Hi, everyone. I'm Francesco Bianchi, from Italy. I have been working as an apprentice at Kinobu, a Japanese restaurant in Kyoto, since April. As I was fascinated about Japanese culture and history, I started studying Japanese since I was a junior high school student. I have eaten Japanese food, such as tempura and ramen, in Italy. Therefore, I was interested in Japanese cuisine too.
After I graduated from the school, I worked at Italian restaurants to become a chef. Since then, I have been thinking to learn Japanese cuisine someday. Like Italian cuisine, Japanese cuisine value the features of each ingredient including taste, texture, and flavor. It was mysterious for me that Japanese dishes have rich flavors without using fancy sauce. Therefore, I wanted to learn their cooking styles and methods.
I applied for an internship program hosted by Kyoto City Office and my wish to learn Japanese cuisine came true in Kyoto.
One day, one of my friends who was working at a restaurant in London to become a chef told me about an internship program to learn Japanese cuisine in Kyoto. I think it was about two years and a half ago. I really wanted to take part in the program. So, I applied for it and got through the screening processes. I was very lucky because my dream came true!
I'm currently working in a Hashun-ba position to help preparation of the dishes.
It's been five months since I came to Kyoto in September. I live in a dormitory together with other chefs of Kinobu. There are several positions in the kitchen, including Tsukuri-ba, Yaki-ba, Taki-ba, and Hashun-ba. The chefs at the restaurant work in one of the positions and move to another every two month. I'm currently working in a Hashun-ba position to help preparation of the dishes. I start working at 9 am and the senior chefs give me detailed instructions while working.
I have received a wide range of instructions of each dish from the senior chefs including how to use kitchen utensils such as knives, cooking methods, and recipes. Chef Katsube, who have been working at the restaurant for 4 years, directly instruct me now. I have asked him how to make Japanese omelet's rolls and mackerel sushi many times but he has kindly taught me every time when I asked without being bothered. I really appreciate his teaching.
You cannot make Japanese dishes by just following their recipes. You need to master each delicate cooking technique by practicing it many times. To master all these techniques will require excessive amount of time. I got to know to learn cooking by fully using my five senses, such as the taste, textures and flavors of ingredients and cooking sounds after I started working at Kinobu.
Practicing Katsura-muki is my daily routine at a break.
I have a two-hour break in the afternoon. I practice the techniques that I have learned and I can practice by myself during the break, such as Katsura-muki (sheet cutting technique). I think that it will take at least one year for me to master Katsura-muki, a single technique. I can master these techniques one by one by practicing them. I got my motivation from a sense of accomplishment now. After the afternoon break, I work on dinner preparation. I finish my work and usually return to the dormitory around 8pm. It seems to be a long working day but time flies so fast for me every day.
I got an interview from a professor from Keio University.
By the way, I recently got an interview by Prof. Greg from Keio University. He has been researching foreign workers in Japan. Since the number of foreigners working in Japan is increasing, he wanted to know how foreigners could teach Japanese cooking methods and techniques to others and how foreigners can adopt well in the work environment of a Japanese restaurant. It is very hard not only to learn but also to teach the cuisine of a country with different customs and language. I would be grateful if our feedback about working in Japan could be useful to foreigners who will come to Japan for working in the future.
Although my future is important, my present is the most important.
I have one or two day off per week. I practice playing the piano that I bought with my first salary or go out for bouldering on my day off. I haven't visited any temples and shrines. So, I'm looking forwards to visiting them someday.
I haven't deeply thought of my future yet. However, I want to learn Japanese cuisine more. I don't know how many years I'm going to work here, for three or five years. I want to stay in Japan after completing this internship if possible and to work at other Japanese restaurants to learn about tempura or sushi.
When I return to Italy, I want to try different Italian dishes that I haven't learned yet. I believe that I should learn various cuisines for my future career for some time now.
My favorite Kanji character and Japanese phrase are "Station" and "Fall down seven times, get up eight"
I'm very fascinated about Kanji characters. For example, the Kanji character "駅Station" includes the character "馬Horse", because people used to change horses at places where people gather, such as post stations. After trains run through these places, they are still called "Station". Unlike alphabets, each Kanji character has a meaning. That really amuses me.
My favorite Japanese phrase is "Fall down seven times, get up eight". I feel strong power of this phrase. I realize that it is important to nourish strong body and mind to deal with problems and difficulties. I'm upset for a while when I couldn't do my task well such as filleting a fish into three pieces. However, if I'm upset about it for a long time, I can't move forward. I need to keep moving forward and try it again. I believe that such repetitions will give me confidence.
416 Iwatoyama-cho, Shinmachi-dori Bukkoji-sagaru, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto
Opening hours: 12:00-14:30（L.O.13:00）and 18:00-21:30（L.O.19:00）
Closed on Wednesdays