Watch the documentary of Uriel, our traveller #002 here.
Uriel Enriquez - Traveller #002
Theme of the travel:
Madai (red seabream) fish and washoku
1. Learn the mastery of washoku
2. Master 4 Madai dishes
Born in Leon city, Guanajuato state, Mexico, and growing up learning cooking from his grandmother, he dreamt of giving joy to the people through food since his childhood. He meets washoku, the traditional art of japanese cooking, when studying gastronomy at the Lassaire University. Being attracted by its unique ingredients and its art of cooking, he decides to become a washoku chef. Since August 2018, he works as a sub-chef at a Japanese restaurant "Goen" in suburban Leon, and provides fresh and delicious Japanese tastes to the locals
"I met washoku when I was studying at the university, and it was a whole new world for me, with unique ingredients and techniques that I have never seen."
Day 0: To the other side of the globe
Visiting Japan had been Uriel's dream since he met washoku for the first time, and one day the dream came true. "We invite you to Japan for a washoku training" said the message arriving from the other side of the globe. With growing expectations and excitement, Uriel left the South American continent for the first time.
Day 1：Welcome to the land of namahage
After a 14-hours long flight from Mexico city to Tokyo, and another 4 hours ride of shinkansen to the north, he finally arrived at Akita station, where a huge namahage ogre mask welcomed him. "Is that a mask used for setsubun?" Uriel seems to be familiar with the Japanese culture. For the first night, Uriel was invited for a dinner party by the locals. Enjoying seafoods and local dishes he never had before, he was getting himself ready for the beginning of the 1-week long training starting from the next day.
“In Tokyo, I saw many technologies I have never seen. Then in Akita, I saw that the people were preserving their culture and tradition, and that's wonderful too.”
Day 2：The training starts, Uriel shows his skills
Being a little bit nervous, Uriel visits Villa Tsubaki in Oga onsen village, where he will have the washoku training from this day. After meeting the master chef Mr.Aiba, he says "so, show me what you can." Meeting madai, the red seabream fish for the first time, Uriel learns how to prepare the fish from Mr.Aiba. After a while, Uriel starts to slice the scale of madai like he has been doing it for years, making everyone in the kitchen surprised.
“The first day of the training was very hard, and I felt the cultural difference when I tried to communicate with them. But even if it's hard, I can still enjoy it, and I want to make the most of it to learn from Aiba san.”
Day 3：4 madai dishes”
"His skills were beyond my expectations," told us Mr.Aiba about his impression towards Uriel. Then he started to teach him 4 different Tai dishes: Sugata tsukuri (whole fish sashimi), Ushio jiru (sea soup), Fukiyose yaki (medley grill), Kabutoni (head stew). Uriel follows each movement of Mr.Aiba while he cooks all 4 dishes on his own. While helping the kitchen with preparations, cleanings and decorations, Uriel started learning the mastery of madai cooking.
“In my philosophy, when we work at the kitchen we have to give the most respect towards our work and the food we offer to the customers. That's why I prefer to be silent while cooking and give the most concentration towards what I do.”
Day 4：Keep doing the same task
Having set his goal for the training, Uriel keeps concentrating on the same task. He prepares numerous madai fish for Villa Tsubaki's dinner, slicing off the scales, cutting them into pieces. It appears like a redundant repetition of the same task, but Uriel disagrees. "By doing the same thing again and again, I can brush my skills and eventually do things that I couldn't have done before."
“It might appear as a boring repetition for other people, but it's not for me. At first, I make a lot of mistakes and there are many things I cannot do. But the more I practice, the better my skills get. ”
Day 5：Sharing the Mexican taste
Taking a day off from the training, Uriel went for an early morning madai fishing tour. Despite the perfect weather, he couldn't catch a single fish but a single tiny one. In the evening, Uriel invited the locals to his Mexican party, where he cooked a madai ceviche, using the techniques he learned from Mr.Aiba. Tacos, mole, and many other dishes were cooked by Uriel, and while the locals had a joyful time with good drinks and food, he kept quietly cooking for the guests with a content smile on his face.
“Since I was a child, I always cooked at christmas parties for my family. Everyone told me that my food was delicious, and that became the motivation for me.“
Day 6：I can do it.
Having the final performance day tomorrow, Uriel keeps preparing ingredients for the kitchen as always. Learning the 4 madai dishes from Mr.Aiba, Uriel comes to know the "hitotema (small steps)" that are crucial for washoku. "In washoku, we don't add flavours to the ingredients. Instead, we try to subtract the unnecessary flavours and smells so that we can taste the best out of the ingredients." says Mr.Aiba. Learning each small steps carefully, Uriel seems to be relaxed and kept telling himself "I can do it."
“There were many steps that I just did without knowing the reason before, but since I started the training here, I discovered the reasons for those small steps and preparations. I really learned a lot of things.”
Day 7: Performance day
For the final day, Uriel invited a local family to offer the 4 madai dishes he had trained. Starting the preparation of madai from early morning, Uriel cooks the 4 dishes on his own, and finally carries the plates to the guests. The family looked surprised and enjoyed the authentic taste of Uriel's washoku. Seeing them leaving with a content mood, Uriel says farewell to the kitchen members of Villa Tsubaki...
“Before I learned the madai dishes here, I never knew that such cooking style is possible, and they were delicious. When I go back to Mexico, I want to cook the dishes I learned here to offer an authentic Japanese taste to the Japanese there and make them happy.”
fter finishing his 1-week training at Villa Tsubaki, Uriel surprised us saying that he found a next place for training in Tokyo. "My dream for the future is to open my own restaurant. Maybe a Japanese Mexican fusion would be nice." He shared us with a smile, looking chill as always. He kept saying that he loves cooking during this 1-week training in Akita. It has been about 3 months since he went back home, where he would be concentrating on cooking for the customers as always, and pollishing his skills for his future dream.
“I cannot say for sure if my butoh has changed or not. But if I myself have changed, of course, my butoh changes too, of course. Because my butoh is nothing but an extension of myself.”
81,Nakazato Yumoto Kitaura, Oga city, Akita
Av Paseo del Moral 519,
Jardines del Moral,
37160 León, Gto., Mexico