Japanese chef wins ‘world’s best’ title in Milan

Former business studies student wows judges with dish based on seasonal freshwater fish

Yasuhiro Fujio from Japan, winner of the San Pellegrino young chef of 2018 title

Yasuhiro Fujio from Japan, winner of the San Pellegrino young chef of 2018 title

 

The San Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 is Yasuhiro Fujio from Japan, who came out best of 21 regional finalists in the global finale of the competition following two days of competition in Milan on Saturday and Sunday.

The winner caught the attention of the seven jury members, Michelin-starred chefs and restaurateurs from the US, Italy, Slovenia, the UK, China, Peru and the Philippines, with his dish that celebrated his Japanese heritage, seasonality and sustainability.

Mentored for the competition by Italian chef Luca Fantin, who lives in Japan, Fujio presented the jury with a dish called Across The Sea, that celebrated the ayu fish, a river fish found in Japan and available only for three months of the year, in summer.

The small, whole fish were grilled and smoked and served skewered on twigs as part of an elaborate presentation that also included a broth of “river water”, made with cucumber, watermelon, melon and green tomatoes.

Fujio, who was a business studies student before changing career, works at La Cime restaurant on Osaka, which is currently number 17, and highest new entry, in the Asia category of the 2018 World’s Best Restaurants listing, the global classifications of which will be announced in Bilbao next month.

In a star-studded finale to the competition in Milan, Italian superstar chef Massimo Bottura spoke about his Refettorio project that counters food waste by opening social enterprise dining rooms to feed those in need, before joining the seven international jury members in cooking the finale dinner.

The UK and Ireland finalist, Killian Crowley, second left, preparing his dish for the final judging
The UK and Ireland finalist, Killian Crowley, second left, preparing his dish for the final judging

The jury members for 2018 were Dominique Crenn (US), Brett Graham (UK), Annie Feolde (Italy), Virgilio Martinez (Peru), Margarita Fores (Philippines), Paul Pairet (China) and Ana Ros (Slovenia).

Killian Crowley, who works at Aniar restaurant in Galway, represented Ireland and the UK in the final, having won the regional UK and Ireland semi-final in London in November with his dish of turbot, kohlrabi and sea purslane.

Crowley began his culinary training in Belgium, aged 15, and has worked at Michelin starred restaurants across Europe, including with Alain Ducasse at the three-star Le Louis XV in Monaco.

Crowley described his dish as “really simple: a fish cooked on the bone, a vegetable cooked in salt crust and a beurre blanc sauce with some sea vegetables”, inspired by the west of Ireland.

The global competition attracted more than 2,000 applications from chefs aged 30 and under, 210 of whom took part in 21 regional finals. It is judged on the basis of five criteria - ingredients, skills, genius, beauty and message.

This year, for the first time, two additional awards were made, with the Japanese chef also winning the Acqua Panna Taste of Authenticity award, decided upon by the mentor chefs representing each finalist. This award was given in recognition of the chef who best expressed the story behind their dish, and its heritage.

The People’s Choice award, a public vote, sponsored by the food media outlet Fine Dining Lovers, went to the South America representative, Elizabeth Puquio Landeo, whose dish, Coastal Fish, was a tribute to her mother.

Irish chef Mark Moriarty won the inaugural edition of this global competition in 2015, and in Milan he cooked two of four courses at a gala dinner on Saturday night alongside last year’s winner, Mitch Lienhard from the US.

After a year in Melbourne, Australia, Moriarty is now working at The Greenhouse, Michelin one-star restaurant in Dublin. Lienhard is chef de cuisine at Manresa in Los Gatos, California.

Moriarty took a distinctly Irish approach to his dessert for the dinner, at Villa Necchi Campiglio, a private events venue in the city, serving Guinness jelly with blackcurrant sorbet and Toscano 70 per cent chocolate mousse. His main course was roast veal sweetbread with peas, morels and wild garlic sabayon.

Lienhard served a starter of prawns marinated in tomato and seaweed vinegar, and a second entree of grilled leaves with mussels and pork broth.

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