With golden hair tied together, round glasses and a black chef's coat, Tadashi Michino works with brisk efficiency at his restaurant.
The 64-year-old chef, with 40 years of experience, runs Michino Le Tourbillon, a French restaurant located in the Fukushima district west of Osaka Station where redevelopment is under way.
"Tourbillon" is French for "whirlwind." True to the name, Michino has tried to refine the shape of his own cooking by redirecting wind in a sense. Although company workers will be reaching the goal in their mid-60s, Michino is far from settling down.
"I want to try new things," he said.
Before graduating from college, a young man who had not even peeled an apple until then decided to become a cook. He recalls that it was an impulse to enter a profession in which he can convey something with his heart and soul. Back when only a handful of places professed themselves to be French restaurants in the Kansai region, he knocked on the door of a renowned restaurant in Kyoto.
Three years later, he was told to cook a dish entirely on his own for the first time. This dish happened to be Sole Duglere.
Bearing the name of a French chef who made a mark in the 19th century, the dish is like a classic textbook. White fish is poached with onion, mushrooms and aromatic vermouth and finished with cream. The version introduced this week is Michino’s current recipe that is light with a moderate use of cream and butter to suit the modern palate. There is no need to brace oneself to cook the dish that requires just a pot.
With a beating heart, young Michino, with three years of experience, took a peek at the restaurant area. The man who sat in front of the plate tried a piece, muttering, "This is good," and kept eating until the plate was empty.
It felt like an anti-climax to Michino who felt, "The efforts I patiently made vanished in an instant. But after feeling let down, I had second thoughts, seeing it as rather interesting. Cooking is about playing for keeps each time. Perhaps it suits me well."
It was a perspective attained by taking a step back to observe people’s emotions instead of lamenting over someone who does not act the way one wants. This notion resonated with the words he learned during the first lecture of theology he attended at university.
"God is watching from above. Prayers are not about asking for something but to ask about one’s own actions." It was the moment Michino found the resolve to become a chef.
Born in 1954 in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture, Tadashi Michino joined a French restaurant in Kyoto after graduating from the School of Theology at Doshisha University. When he was 31, he flew to France where he trained for two and a half years. He opened French restaurant Michino Le Tourbillon in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture, in 1990. The restaurant moved to its current location in 2009. He has written a book titled "Ryorinin to iu ikikata" (A cook's way of life) published by mars inc.
2 pieces flounder (hirame) (or white fish such as sea bream [tai] or Japanese sea bass [suzuki])
1 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
120 cc white wine
50 cc dry vermouth (if not available, increase amount of white wine)
80 cc fresh cream
Finely chop onion. Peel tomato after steeping in boiling water. Remove seeds and dice into 1-cm pieces. Thinly slice mushrooms.
Sprinkle salt and pepper on flounder. Thickly coat bottom and side of thick pot with butter. Add onion and tomato as if sprinkling. Lay flounder on top and cook over medium heat. When butter starts to melt, pour wine and vermouth, place a lid and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cook fish.
Remove flounder on plate, cover with kitchen wrap to keep warm. Raise heat and reduce sauce until almost no water remains. Lower heat; add fresh cream and mix. Reduce further and add salt to taste. Switch off heat, add parsley. Pour sauce over fish.
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From The Asahi Shimbun’s Watashi no Ryori column