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Renowned Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa launched his first Nobu restaurant in New York back in 1993, as part of a collaboration with movie legend Robert de Niro, Meir Teper and other big hitters on the US hospitality scene. Twenty years down the line, it’s a jet-setting global brand with more than two dozen outlets worldwide and a liberal sprinkling of Michelin stars – including Nobu London and Nobu Berkeley Street among others.
In January 2014, Matsuhisa and his partners opened the 27th Nobu at the Fairmont Monte Carlo, where he spoke to Square Meal about his influences, film roles and the proposed new Nobu hotel in London.
You are credited with the popularisation of fusion food. How did that come about?
I studied Japanese cooking for seven years at a Tokyo sushi restaurant called Matsuei, before setting up in Peru, Argentina and Alaska. After that, I moved to LA as a sushi chef and began introducing Peruvian influences into my food. With restaurants in cities across the world, I also like to make use of seasonal ingredients from different regions: if you come to Monte Carlo in September, for example, you might be offered beautiful white truffles – perhaps served with steamed white fish and olive oil.
What’s the secret of your success?
Right now I’m travelling 10 months a year, but my team is very strong. Many of them have been working with me for up to 20 years, which helps a great deal because you can’t completely control things on your own. For me, a growing business means a growing family, and my ‘family’ provides huge support – that’s why I feel comfortable.
Your new cookbook Nobu: the Sushi Book has just been published. Are home cooks nervous of making sushi?
Sushi is very difficult to perfect, and it takes years to become a master of the art. It is a matter of refining, practicing and developing your own style. In the book, I’m simply offering people the opportunity to try it out. I’m giving them the first step.
Last year you opened your first hotel, in Caesars Palace, Las Vegas. Will something similar be coming to London?
Once we had made a business success of Las Vegas, people approached us, saying ‘do one in my country’, ‘can I invest with you?’ Riyadh in Saudi Arabia is our next venture, followed by Manila – a casino hotel in collaboration with Australian businessman James Packer. Of course, people have also asked us to launch a hotel in London. I went to see a couple of locations, but it’s not a closed deal yet. I like to work in partnerships that are comfortable, and that takes time.
You appeared in your fourth film last year. What appeals to you about the movies?
It’s an excellent job, and I’m keen to try new experiences. My friendship with Robert De Niro was the reason I landed my first role – in Casino. His production people simply called me and said ‘come to the auditions’. After Casino, Austin Powers and Memoirs of a Geisha, I recently appeared in The Girl from Nagasaki – it’s a 3D movie. I’m always being offered new opportunities, but cooking is still my life.
Nobu Fairmont Monte Carlo, 12 Avenue des Spélugues, Monte Carlo, Monaco 98000
British Airways flies daily from Gatwick to Nice, from £77.50 (ba.com/Nice, 0844 4930787)
by Laura Ivill