Chase Kojima had dreams of becoming a professional tennis player, but his love for Japanese cooking eventually won out.
After growing up in his father's Japanese restaurant in San Francisco, Chase has since learnt some incredible skills and worked with some of the finest, freshest seafood.
Not only is he currently Head Chef at hatted restaurants at The Star, Sokyo and Kiyomi, he's also set to embark on a new challenge, joining forces with Victor Liong to merge the distinct flavours and techniques of Japan and China into one glorious culinary experience at a brand new restaurant, Chuuka, opening on July 3rd, in Sydney's Jones Bay Wharf.
We caught up with Chase to lift the lid on his inspirations, favourite ingredients and what it's like cooking for celebrities...
Why did you want to become a chef?
"When I was younger, I actually really wanted to become a professional tennis player – however my father had a very busy Japanese restaurant in San Francisco, California which I began helping at, when I was just 11. Slowly my passion began developing for cooking for people and seeing how happy we made out customers and from then on I fell in love with the industry."
Who is your biggest industry inspiration?
"My father, Sachio Kojima. An OG Japanese chef – he was very scary!"
What’s your go-to kitchen appliance?
"These days it would have to be my wok – it’s just so handy!"
Favourite ingredient to cook with?
"Ninben no tsuyu. It’s a dashi concentrate that I can add to anything that is lacking umami."
What is your career highlight so far?
"That’s a hard question. I was really excited when I cooked for celebrities – for examples I’ve cooked for the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio when they’ve filmed here and some big names in the sports world. That’s always a big moment for me... but perhaps would say when my dad finally came to Sydney from San Francisco and ate my food. I hadn’t seen him for over 10 years, so when he came to sample my food that was a big moment."
What staple meal do you cook regularly at home?
"A traditional Japanese breakfast. Grilled lightly salted fish, homemade pickles, perfectly cooked steamed yumepirikka rice, miso soup and hot green tea to wash it all down. Delicious!"
Can you tell us about the worst cooking blunder you’ve ever had?
"When I first started as a cook (I was one week in) we were at my father’s restaurant and I was making a California sushi roll. When I cut it, I accidently cut my finger really badly. My senior chef who was next to me asked me if I was ok, but actually he was just asking if the California roll was ok. Needless to say, we served the roll and I went to the hospital!"