Interviewing a Japanese chef in Berlin

by Cornelia Reiher

On a hot Friday afternoon in June, we visited a restaurant run by a Japanese chef. When we arrived, the outdoor area in front of the restaurant was full of people enjoying a late lunch. We took a seat inside, and while Machiko, the chef, was still busy preparing the food, we had the opportunity to look around and check out the menu. Located in a movie theater, Machiko offers lunch on weekdays, but serves not only Japanese dishes such as sakedon, sushi or udon, but also bibimpap. Except for the sakedon, all dishes are vegan or have a vegan option.

When things quieted down, Machiko sat down with us and we began with the interview. We had successfully established an Internet connection so that one of the students could join in from Tokyo. The students had prepared questions for Machiko in Japanese and were a bit nervous in advance. The interview focused on Machiko’s migration experience, her professional background and her idea of Japanese food, her customers, ingredients and experiences during the Covid pandemic. We learned that she was trained as a chef in Japan and mainly prepared kaiseki ryōri back then. She really likes fusion cuisine as long as it respects Japanese cuisine. She is convinced that her training allows her to prepare the dishes she now offers. For the lunch she serves, the most important criteria are that it can be served quickly, tastes delicious and is reasonably priced.

The conversation was very interesting and went well. Machiko’s positive attitude and charisma was very motivating and reassuring, so small difficulties with the Japanese language were no problem. After the interview, we ordered a few more dishes to reward ourselves before the kitchen closed. During the hour we spent inside for the interview, most of the guests had already left and the staff had already started cleaning up. Visiting the restaurant instead of conducting the interview online or at the university was not only convenient for Machiko, but also provided us with a lot of insight by being able to see the restaurant, experience the atmosphere and most importantly, eat the dishes offered. Thank you, Machiko, for your time!

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