Chef Kei Kobayashi has made history by becoming the first-ever Japanese chef to be awarded the maximum three Michelin stars for his restaurant, Kei, in Paris.
Kobayashi was among several Japanese cooks who were given stars on Monday in France, reports the Japan Times.
Chef Kazuyuki Tanaka won two stars for his restaurant Racine, which is located in Reims, while Yasunari Okazaki was also awarded two for his sushi and crossover cuisine at L’Abysee au Pavillon Ledoyen in Paris.
Kobayashi, who hails from Nagano Prefecture, opened his Paris restaurant about nine years ago. He reportedly became enamored with French cuisine after watching a television documentary on Alain Chapel, the nouvelle cuisine pioneer who is also a three-star Michelin chef. Since then, he has spent his life learning and developing his cooking skills in French cuisine at French restaurants in Japan.
In 1998, he moved to France and soon worked at the Auberge du Vieux Puits under legendary chef Gilles Goujon. He also worked under Alain Ducasse at the Plaza Athenee in Paris and eventually was able to put up his own restaurant in 2011.
According to the 42-year-old chef, chefs from Japan have worked hard to be among the very best in French cuisine.
“There are lots of Japanese chefs now in France and you have accepted us and given us a place,” he was quoted as saying while he received his award. “Thank you, France.”
Kobayashi shared that his drive for perfection has made him somewhat a “difficult person” to work with at times.
“I am quite hard. I ask a lot of my team, and then I ask a lot more,” he admitted.
After winning the highest distinction in French cooking, he revealed that he didn’t like his cooking to be “categorized” as either French or Japanese, “just the best.”
Food critics have marveled at his precision while cooking, and how he makes simple dishes extraordinary.
In the Michelin guide, Kobayashi is described as a “virtuoso of flavors” while his cooking was deemed both “delicate and memorable.”
“It’s very simple. Every dish that Kei turns the rigor of his attention to is called on to become a signature one,” the popular guide noted.