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This chef of a 3-Michelin-starred restaurant has a philosophy that can be applied to any career


Shinobu Namae’s entry into the culinary world wasn’t “fancy.” It was purely a question of survival — “I needed to earn money,” he said with a laugh. 

“The easiest way to get a job for a university student then was to be a dishwasher. That’s how I started my career.”

It wasn’t long before Namae was “tossed” onions and garlics to peel in his free time at the restaurant. Though it wasn’t glamorous work, he enjoyed it.

“There are not many jobs that give an immediate reaction in response to your work. If you serve delicious food, you can see it on the customers’ faces,” he told CNBC Make It. 

“It’s very, very beautiful work to be in the kitchen and see people happy.”

It is a skill to feel for others and make others feel they’re cared for. That’s a very important part of being a chef in a restaurant.

Shinobu Namae

Chef at L’Effervescence

Thus began a love affair that would see Namae working his way up the ranks in the kitchens of Japan and England for seven years before opening L’Effervescence in Tokyo 13 years ago. 

The restaurant, which shines a spotlight on Japanese produce using modern European culinary techniques, has since been awarded three Michelin stars — for three years in a row. 

Most recently, Namae was awarded the “Icon” award for his contributions to the food world at the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023 event. His restaurant was ranked 44th in the list.

The 50-year-old chef tells CNBC Make It about his culinary philosophy and what motivates him to keep learning.

From politics to food 

Before he fell in love with cooking, Namae studied politics at Keio University in Tokyo — a field he said has parallels to the food world. 

“I have always been very interested in humanity and what makes us human … Politics is all about understanding the relationship between people, communities and nations,” he said. 

The interior of L’Effervescence. The restaurant claims its sources of electricity are sustainable, such as the use of firewood collected from forest thinning for cooking.

Being in the food industry has helped him deepen that understanding. Food cultures may vary, but what’s universal is the desire to connect with others and feel joy through food, he said.

“We can amuse ourselves through our ability … to consume or serve fancy food in a great atmosphere,” Namae said. 

“But it is a skill to feel for others and make others feel they’re cared for. That’s a very important part of being a chef in a restaurant.”

That’s why he believes it’s the “fundamental ability” of humans — not just chefs — to care for something that will bring a person to greater heights. 

Most people get narrow-minded because they are focusing on techniques and details [of dishes]. These are beautiful things, but we also need to take care of our surroundings too.

Shinobu Namae

Chef, L’Effervescence

“That is the starting point for my job as a chef: If we do not care about ingredients, we don’t cook well. If we don’t care about our staff, we don’t have a strong team and we will be in trouble,” Namae said. 

“If we don’t care about the customer — when a chef just cooks what he likes or she likes … the business won’t be successful.”

Ethics of gastronomy  

L’Effervescence’s signature dish “Fixed Point” features a whole turnip slow-cooked for four hours, with brioche, ham and parsley.

Nathalie Cantacuzino

Source: CNBC