Why do many international chefs come to Kyoto, a gastronomic city, to work as an apprentice to learn about Washoku or to provide their home cuisines in Kyoto and to pursue new food ideas? What can they get in Kyoto? Which feature of Kyoto cuisine we can see through struggles and successes of these international chefs in Kyoto?
In the seventh episode of international chefs in Kyoto, we feature Chef Jorge Joch, the owner of Spanish bal tato, who speaks Kansai dialect fluently. We will introduce his path from what he triggered interest in Japan when he was a boy to how his dream came true in Kyoto.
Seeing written Japanese determined my destiny.
I was seven years old when I got to know about Japan for the first time. I visited Disney World with my family in Florida and found its pamphlet written in Japanese. I thought, "Wow, that looks so cool!" I picked it up and looked at the letters. This was my first encounter of Japanese. I didn't know why only Japanese letters looked so cool to me among several pamphlets in different languages. I took the pamphlet to the hotel and copied the letters even though I didn't know their meanings. At that time, I decided "I will definitely visit Japan to learn Japanese someday!".
After a week of my graduation from a university in Canada, I counted on my friend who I met in Canada and came to Osaka. I lived in his parent's house. While I was working at an English school for kids, I looked for a Japanese language teacher and started Japanese lessons. Although I only knew several Japanese words such as Toyota, Samurai, and Sushi, at that time, thank to my strict teacher, my Japanese was significantly improved in four years.
After that, I relocated every few years in Spain, Kyoto, and Canada. Then, I returned Kyoto again. I thought "Since I live in Japan, I should live in a place where has the most profound culture". Kyoto culture, including kimono, machiya (traditional Japanese-style town house), temples, shrines, and historical landscapes, are rich and very interesting to me. However, my workplace was in Shiga.
I sowed a business in Shiga and moved to Kyoto when the time was ripe.
I started an English and Spanish language school in Shiga. Several years later, I opened a bal in Zeze. My dream since I was a university student came true. I worked as a part-time teacher at a high school and a university too. Therefore, it was very tough for me. However, as I had a clear goal to open my restaurant in Kyoto in the future, I worked hard to learn Spanish cuisine from scratch. Actually, I haven't cooked before. Therefore, after I got a key of my bal, I called my mother who were in Spain, asking "Please give me your recipes of this and that dishes."
I worked hard to make these dishes, only relying on my mother's recipes and recalling their taste with my tongue. Something always went wrong in the beginning but I kept practicing at my bal in Shiga with a wish of opening a bal in Kyoto someday. To be honest, what I did at my bal in Shiga was practicing. I ran the language school for 10 years in Shiga. I worked both at the school and at my bal for four out of these 10 years. Finally, when my wish came true and I moved my bal to Kyoto, support from my regular customers in Zeze made me reassured.
I'm currently dedicated to being the life and soul of the party in central Kyoto.
The location of my bal used to be the birthplace home of a female student of my language school. That was a very interesting coincidence. It was when she was about 80 years old that she offered me this place. Unfortunately, she passed away a few years ago. However, her sons who were born here too sometimes visit here even now. I say to them "Welcome home!" every time when they visit here.
I mostly stand at the counter and serve my customers at my bal. I'm the life and soul of party here. I made signboards at the bal by myself. I should write "There is a Spanish person with full of energy" on the signboard, shouldn't I? Otherwise, I might be scared them. Even though I warn them, they will be surprised by my energetic character. My customers often ask me, "Are you taking a strange medication?" Even I only drink tea with milk! I feel happy to entertain my customers and serve them various alcoholic drinks from all over the world while chatting with them.
I have served more than 140 legs of sexy bérico pigs up to now!
The sexy Iberian ham that I'm cutting right now is 140th and 141th bérico legs that have been counted from the first one served at my bal in Zeze. The 140th one with a red label, is called "Jamón de bellota ibérico", a bit special, premium ibérico. Although this is not always available at my bal, its quality is so high that some customers come here just to enjoy this special ibérico. If you have a sip of red wine together with a slice of this ibérico, the wine will significantly taste better. Although it depends on the season, it won't take a month to consume a whole ibérico. Its shortest record was during the Gion Festival. Freshly-sliced Ibérico was completely gone in a day and only its born was left. I felt that I was slicing Ibérico all day on that day. (Even ibérico was in my dream at that night.)
Please enjoy our freshly-made Spanish omelet!
Since the specialties of the staff members who had worked at my bal were included in the menu, the number of the menu items has considerably increased. A specialty of Chef Taku Sugimoto (on the right side of the first picture of this article) who manages the kitchen on my behalf is Spanish omelet, which is considered to be a home cooking dish in Spain. There are two types of Spanish omelet: with and without onion. Our omelet includes onion. Our freshly-made omelet will be the best. I come around each table while rotating the plate to enhance its aroma every time when an omelet is freshly made. I always rotate the plate a lot below the noses of my customers!
I want to keep filling in blank space of the maps.
When I saw Japanese characters at the age of seven for the first time, I was especially interested in "の (no)"in hiragana. Its round shape looked very cute. I thought, "What is this?" "の"is grammatically important, isn't it? After I studies Japanese, I understood that I cannot communicate without using "の". Even though Japanese is far different from Spanish, learning the language of a country where I live is very important to understand its culture. It's a shame not to learn the language of a resident country.
What do I want to do next in my life? I'm always thinking about that, but I want to work in Japan until I retire. Japan is a very comfortable country to work. For example, suppliers deliver on time and don't mistake my orders. They impressed me very much. If I were in Spain, I would receive different items every delivery. Even they might deliver to a different shop! Business registration procedure of the local government went fast without any mistakes. Occasionally when I return Spain for about a week, I am always very frustrated by such things. "Too slow, I cannot stand it!". As I get used to work in a Japanese manner, I might not be able to work in other countries.
These Japanese and World maps show the birthplaces of my customers who have visited at my bal up to now. I asked my customers where they were from and had a marking pin stick into the birthplace location on these maps. We got a new pin on New Caledonia yesterday. I'm looking forwards to seeing these maps full of pins as I get older.
151 Takoya-cho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto
Opening hours: 17:30-23:30
Closed on Sundays (If a public holiday falls on Sunday, the following Monday will be closed.)