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Thread: Gohan Society Scholarship Program 2015 (Part 1)

  1. #1

    Join Date
    May 2012

    Gohan Society Scholarship Program 2015 (Part 1)

    Hello! Long time no see... Sorry.

    As some of you guys may know, Saori (owner of Korin) is also the founder of a non-profit organization called the Gohan Society ( This organization's mission is "to foster an understanding and appreciation of Japan’s culinary heritage in the United States through outreach to chefs, culinary arts professionals and all who admire and enjoy Japanese culture." Every year for the past 10 years, the Gohan Society selects 3-4 scholarship applicants to Japan to train under some of Japan's top traditional restaurants. This year was the first time I was invited to attend the scholarship program as a translator for the 4 chefs, so I wanted to share pictures from the scholarship program.

    This post is part 1 of 2 (or 3) of the scholarship program. I hope you guys enjoy!

    2015’s scholarship award winners were:
    - Ben Pollinger, executive chef of Oceana Restaurant
    - Joe Downey-Zayas, sous chef of Allonda
    - Erik Battes, corporate executive chef of Morimoto
    - Damien Niotis, C-CAP Scholorship awardee and private chef

    This year we sent these chefs to Kanagawa city in Ishikawa prefecture.

    ^^ There

    Kanazawa city is home to some of the oldest ryotei restaurants in Japan. The Gohan Society had the honor of working with:

    - Asadaya - Asadaya is more than 140 years old and the most famous ryokan, or traditional Japanese inn in Kanazawa. It has only 4 elaborate rooms for guests in order to provide perfect services in accordance with the "sukiya" style of simplicity. It is an unforgettable dining experience combining traditional local cuisine, seasonal fish and produce with refined dinner-ware.

    - Tsubajin - Before exploring the world of cuisine, many generations of the Tsuba family had been artisans of making a Tsuba-sword guard in Kaga Province. In 1752, Jinbei Tsuba III opened a small restaurant besides his main business of sword guard making. This is the origin of Tsubajin as a Japanese restaurant house (Ryotei). The restaurant gained a great reputation among the feudal lords, and soon it was recognized as the best restaurant in Kaga Province. After the Meiji restoration in early 19th century, literary masters including Saisen-Muro, political figures including Ito Hirofumi, the first Prime Minister of Japan, had all dined at Tsubajin to enjoy Kaga’s specialty food.

    - Kotobukiya - Kotobukiya is the only ryotei (high-class Japanese restaurant) in Kanazawa that offers shojin ryori (Zen Buddhist vegetarian cuisine) on their standard menu. This ryotei in a 150 year old Japanese house that has been designated as a cultural asset by Kanazawa City.

    - Zeniya - The pinnacle of Japanese cuisine is a collaboration between the content and the container. At Zeniya, Chef Shinichiro Takagi supervises every ingredient and detail of decor. From every dish and vessel to every flower, making each creation a perfect instant of harmony. Zeniya specializes in "IshokuDogen": literally translated as “food and medicine are of the same source”, is an ancient concept from China which expresses the simple idea that both medicine and one's daily food are equally important in keeping oneself healthy and active.

    What is ryotei?
    “Ryotei is the term reserved for Japanese-style eating establishments of the highest quality. Such restaurants may be run by famous chefs or have long and distinguished histories of 300 years or more; they offer the finest and most refined of Japanese cuisine... The origins of ryotei may be found in the late sixteenth century, when fine dining was offered at temples on the scenic slopes of the mountains surrounding Kyoto. Large-scale ryotei made their appearance in Edo (now Tokyo) and Osaka in the eighteenth century; these sometimes consisted of expansive gardens with a number of separate buildings, each accommodating private groups of diners. The service provided might include not only fine food, but entertainment such as song and dance, and even possibly a dalliance with geisha.”
    - Kikkoman

    The scholarship program began in a small town called Yamanaka in Ishikawa prefecture, where we stayed at Kayo-tei Japanese Inn. This inn only has 10 rooms, hot spring baths, and is famous for their award winning breakfasts.

    The front of the ryokan

    Their private hot spring

    About Yamanaka:
    “Yamanaka has developed into one of the most prominent producers of lacquerware in Japan and is especially known for Kutaniyaki porcelain. In the early Edo era, this new kind of porcelain was created in the village of Kutani, Enuma-gun.

    Yamanaka Onsen is the hot spring town nestled in the mountains, where the traditional culture of Yamanaka lacquerware prospered. Running through the center of the beautiful green Kakusenkei valley is the Daishoji River. In the valley, many Japanese-style hotels with beautiful views and sounds of the river are built along the banks of the river.”

    When the scholarship awardees arrived, they were greeted by Chef Michael Romano of Union Square Hospitality who took them on a how to Japanese hot spring tour after their long flight to Ishikawa prefecture.

    After their hot bath, the people of Kayo-tei had late night dinner ready for them.


    Dessert was fresh delicious Japanese melon.

    The next morning we had Kayo-tei’s award winning Japanese breakfast.

    The people of Kayo-tei took us to various visit local artisans of traditional crafts.

    First stop was visiting Shigeo Fujisawa, Kutani-yaki Japanese Pottery Artisan.

    The process!

    Washi paper crafts-woman, Mika Horie of Mume Studio.
    We made washi paper out of gampi tree fibers.

    We tore apart the ganpi tree fibers that she collected that day from the mountains.

    What is ganpi?
    A species of flowering plants
    Tree height: about 1-2 m
    Used for paper making more than 1300 years ago.
    Grows on sunny mountainside, and Kaga Onsen area is the northern most point of its natural habitat in Japan.

    Boiled the fibers than hammered it into a finer pulp.

    Then we were all set to make the paper.

    They let me make one too.

    We also visited lacquer ware craftsmen, Yasushi Satake of Kiji-shi. His father, Yasuhiro Satake is a third generation wood turner in Yamanaka.


    Finished products

    Their famous wooden lacquer wine glasses/goblets

    Last stop was traditional Japanese sweet (wagashi) making with Chef Kiyohiko Kuroda, Fourth Generation Owner of Okashichoshinjyo Sankaido.

    What is wagashi?
    Wagashi are traditional Japanese sweets, typically involving sweetened beans (not always red beans). This type of sweets are eaten during tea ceremonies and accompanied with matcha green tea. As you may already know, real matcha (not the stuff in the tea baggies, the powdered stuff) is super bitter. These sweets balance out the bitterness and is delicious together.

    Chef Kuroda was famous for making these sweets.

    Mixture of potato and bean paste

    Pro flower!

    Much trickier than it looks.

    Welcome party with the hosting restaurants and scholarship awardees at Kayo-tei

    Takigawa tofu

    Salted herring , apricot, soft boiled octopus, salted bonito on a chilled tofu and sweet potato cakes.

    Sea eel, water shield, and green pepper soup

    Sashimi: Ara, squid, and sweet prawn

    Kuromai somen noodles

    Grilled ayu fish

    Takiawase (simmered dish)
    Kayotei’s special togan (gourd) dish with assorted summer vegetables, squid, prawn, and abalone

    Hashiyasume: Vinegared mozuku seaweed

    Vinegared dish: Cold beef with mashed potato

    Finishing touch: Organic local aigamo rice, miso soup, and Japanese pickles

    Dessert: Sweet soy milk jelly

    WHEW. Thank you for reading part 1 of the scholarship program!
    I will work on part 2 now.

  2. #2
    Senior Member _PixelNinja's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    It's always a treat when you share your adventures in pictures, Mari. Thank you : )

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    WildBoar's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    WOW! Thanks so much for taking the time to write that up. That looks like a great adventure -- congrats to those who were chosen; I am sure this will influence them tremendously.
    David (WildBoar's Kitchen)

  4. #4

    Join Date
    May 2012
    Thank you so much for reading them guys!!

  5. #5
    Dave Martell's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Airville, PA
    Awesome! Thanks for sharing this with us Mari.

  6. #6
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    San Diego, CA
    Thank you Mari - what an amazing adventure! Please sign me up

    Awesome please keep them coming....

    So envious!


  7. #7

    ecchef's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Back of beyond.
    Outstanding Mari! It's nice to see a few familiar faces from the old GS workshops.
    I do sorely miss those. Please give my best regards to Kawano-sama.
    “Though I could not caution all, I still might warn a few; Don’t lend your hand to raise no flag atop no ship of fools.” Robert Hunter

  8. #8
    Senior Member jklip13's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Kyoto, Japan
    A good knives wont make you better, only practice will, a good knife should make you practice.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Castalia's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Thanks for sharing. Brings back lots of memories for me: In college back in the early 90s I studied Japanese language and literature on a foreign study program. I was there living in Kanazawa for about four months with a homestay family. Umeboshi for breakfast everyday. Kenrokuen and the surrounding countryside is beautiful. I may have gone to the same paper making studio for an afternoon outing. I would love to go back to Kanazawa one of these days with my family.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    May 2012
    Quote Originally Posted by jklip13 View Post
    Heeeey are you the same Mr. Klip that was at the Korin Chef's night and helping us serve tuna to everyone? You came into Korin this week too, yea? LOL

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