Tetsuya Wakuda is one of the most famous chefs when it comes to Japanese cuisine, from his early days at Tetsuya’s in Australia to his stint as a Masterchef Junior Australia judge, he has interpolated his cuisine from every facet of his life and travels. Influenced from Australian produce to Singaporean, we pick the brains behind Waku Ghin at the Epicurean Market 2019 to find out more about his philosophy and cuisine.
How long have you been in this industry and featured at the Epicurean Market?
I’ve owned my own business for 32 years, with Waku Ghin being opened for 10 years. This will be our sixth year at the Epicurean Market. This is the first time we’re only featuring our dessert menu, because at the moment we’re rebuilding the restaurant. At the moment, we don’t have a kitchen, so we’re only doing pastry this year. Normally we will have both.
When will the restaurant be ready and will there be a change in concept?
The restaurant will reopen in February 2020. No, the concept is the same but will be a little bit more. There will be an area for a la carte dining, an area where you can come for one or two dishes. There will be a big bar as well, a Japanese cocktail bar, and also sake.
What special dish do people have to try when they go there?
When it comes to signature dish, we do not decide. You can find many dish at other restaurants too, but at Waku Ghin, people keep coming back for the botan shrimp, sea urchin and ossetra caviar, which is I think what most people come for. So… I guess we have to keep those dishes.
Basque Cheese Cake from Waku Ghin
What is your philosophy behind your cuisine?
Produce. Good produce. You know, its precious… high quality ingredients. Either spices, herbs or certain techniques, cooking is to enhance the flavour of the ingredients, whatever the main ingredient we are focusing on.
Are your techniques more Asian or European?
More European really… where European and Asian-Japanese meet. Technique is one thing, but each chef can cook the same thing, same ingredients, same recipe but never the same taste. That’s what makes it special. Also, my palate is of a certain taste, which I pass on to my team, that’s how you do it, but also most importantly, ingredients.
How about ingredients?
You’re Malaysian right? So, for example, the strawberry cake, we have traditionally been using Japanese strawberries, but this time we use Cameron Highlands strawberries. Japanese people are doing it. I think it’s a joint venture between a Japanese company and Malaysian local people to grow the strawberries and some other vegetables. They’re very good too.
Fraisier from Waku Ghin
Would you say they are seasonal?
Seasonal, yes, but they are just about all year round actually in Cameron Highlands and Japan. The ones from Cameron Highlands are a little bit smaller in size as they’re a different variety, but same style as the Japanese variety and it tastes very good. Its sweet and flavourful in terms of its taste and its flavour What you want is a good taste of strawberries, not only sweetness, so we’re very happy with them. Even when it comes to bar culture, they need special block ice. That’s also from Malaysia too.
What advice do you have for young chefs?
First of all, you have to have interest. If you have interest you’re 80% there because it’s not an easy business or profession., But if you enjoy what you’re doing, it’s amazing. It’s not hard right? Now, it doesn’t matter what nationality you ae… I’m Japanese born in Japan and grew up there and also been a long time in Australia. But once you can cook, I know other people too, even without language you can make a living, it’s become a highly recognised profession. 20 years ago, maybe not, it was more like ‘ah, you’re a cook’. We have a lot of Malaysian people working with us and some of them have their own restaurants here too after working with us, I think that’s wonderful. It’s a wonderful industry to be in. The world is already getting very small and on top of that culinary and food is actually just like an international language. Everyone has to eat and food is good. I wish more people will come into the industry because our industry is growing, even your country itself (Malaysia), more restaurants, more bars, they should promote it. My kitchen, the majority is Malaysian people, I think its wonderful.
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