In yesterday's first part of our interview with Hideo Yamashiro, the chef talked about fusion cuisine and his path from juggling knives at Benihana to pairing cheese and wine at Orris, his 6 year-old restaurant on Sawtelle Boulevard. In the second part of the interview (turn the page) Yamashiro resumes the discussion. And check back later for Yamashiro's recipe for curry-infused shrimp tempura, if you should feel like making it at home instead of ordering it at his restaurant, where the dish is currently on the menu.
Squid Ink: What are some of your favorite foods?
Hideo Yamashiro: I can't eat as much as I used to; before I used to eat cheese almost every day. I love the flavor. Some of my favorites are Spanish goat cheese, sheep milk and Roquefort cheese.
SI: You use a good amount of cheese in your menu at Orris.
HY: Cheese is just wonderful. So much character. Cheese is so, so different. Different areas have different flavors that tells a story. Wine is the same. Even if you make them [cheeses] the same way, each cave has different bacterias that brings a different flavor. Its not like the American McDonald's model, where you eat here and you taste the same flavor at different places. All cheese has a different character. I love how it's not the same. Cheeese. Oh, I love cheese. So much flavor. I used to eat cheese everyday but I have to watch my cholesterol now. Otherwise...
In France, how many different styles? I don't use as much cheese as Italian restaurants, but we use maybe four or five types: Manchego, burrata, Parmesan and a selection of cheeses from our cheese plate.
SI: Any favorite places to eat cheese?
HY: I love Ricky Moreno's food at Capo. I like his cooking. His flavors are very elegant and creative. His one dish: four cheese ravioli with white truffles. A little pricey, but so good. For me, its the most memorable dish in L.A. in the last ten years.
SI: Anywhere else?
HY: I also like Sushi Zo. Very traditional. I like to eat individually, so its a perfect place for that. But because of the recession I cannot go out as often as I would like. L.A. is kind of expensive for what I pay for because of rent and labor. For going to a 3 star restaurant, I'd rather go overseas and spend that money. Sure we have talented chefs in this country but talented chefs sometimes become money chasers. They open one restaurant, then a second and then many more and... no way you can make good food like that.
SI: So, you don't eat out a lot in L.A.?
HY: I don't go anymore. Its very inconsistent. One day good, the next day its another story. I don't feel like going out in L.A. anymore. I used to go to sushi places a lot, very consistent. I also love Mexican food. Mexican food is not complicated but there's a lot of flavor there.
Sure, I want to go to French restaurants but I don't know anymore. Not too many restaurants anymore. I'm just disappuointed. A lot of chefs are going to be mad at me. I criticize other chefs becase they cook with their [points to head] and not their [points to heart]. It's different. Cooking has become so academic. You go to school and get a recipe. Even if you have 1,000 recipes, if you don't have [points to heart], you have nothing. When I make a mistake cooking, it hurts. I want to make food as if I'm on a first date with a girl. That kind of meal.
I don't change my menu that often, but I make sure it's satisfying so that you want to eat it again. Eat it tomorrow or a week later and people want to still eat those dishes. I don't want to be fancy-shmancy, like cookbooks. My food is not visual. Our society is too visualized from T.V. and magazines. Too many pictures. People judge with their eyes; it's not only food but now everything is judged by how it looks. But I don't think my food is like that. It doesn't mean I don't care... but our society is just too visual.
SI: So, why do you cook?