Kunihiko Waguri, The Westin Tokyo’s veteran executive chef for Chinese cuisine, sat down recently with JAPAN Forward to discuss his mindset as a culinary professional. We asked him about how he discovered some of his favorite dishes served at the hotel’s Cantonese-style restaurant, Ryutenmon, and what he enjoys about having an in-house restaurant at the hotel.
Below are excerpts from the interview:
As an in-house Chinese restaurant at The Westin Tokyo, we specialize in welcoming customers from various countries.
In particular, I enjoy proactively initiating conversations with customers who speak Cantonese. Our Chinese customers and customers from other countries who often travel to China are delighted to have these conversations, and I believe it makes their dining experience more joyful.
I was born into a family that ran a restaurant, and developed my interest in cooking from an early age. When I started my culinary career, I found myself at a Western-style restaurant inside a hotel. There was a Chinese restaurant right next to the one where I was working and I was deeply moved by the depth of the art of Chinese culinary. It was at that time that I decided to switch my specialty, and for close to 40 years now my professional path has been about Cantonese cuisine.
I still travel to Hong Kong for research several times a year in pursuit of the latest Cantonese delicacies. When I go, I try to bring along the younger cooks on these research trips because I want them to learn about the authentic cuisine and realities of the world. At the same time, the hands-on experience they gain by these trips teach them the importance of the joy of cooking.
These experiences and emotions, I believe, are reflected onto the quality of food and services we provide at the restaurant. In turn, that improves our ability to satisfy our diverse customers from around the world.
An important feature is that we use savory ingredients that are unique to Japan. This ensures its high quality and also provides our customers with the knowledge that Chinese cuisine in Japan is safe and delicious.
We aim to provide the finest dining experience for all our guests, be they residents of Japan or visiting foreigners. We want them to enjoy our wide range of authentic Cantonese dishes created with Japanese sensitivity and prepared in tune with the traditions of wonderful Chinese cooking.
In the next article in this series we will talk with Kazushi Iwane, executive chef of The Westin Tokyo’s Japanese restaurant, Mai.
Author: Yukihiro Watanabe for JAPAN Forward