SA chef takes another shot at top cooking prize
Challenge to master Japanese cuisine
SOUTH Africa has another shot at taking the top prize at the third Washoku World Challenge in Japan next week.
Chef Usman Khan of Nobu Cape Town is one of 10 finalists competing in the high- level cooking competition of Japanese cuisine for non-Japanese chefs.
This is Khan’s second attempt at the challenge and he believes his main course dish of seared sashimi udon will show his knowledge of Japanese cuisine.
“I’m now more focused on winning and competing,” Khan said. “When I first got to Japan, I was overwhelmed because it was my first time there.”
A sushi chef for eight years, Khan initially planned to study dentistry, but after his application got lost, working at a restaurant that served sushi while he waited to reapply changed his career path.
“I didn’t choose sushi, I believe it chose me,” he said. “Once I was offered the opportunity to be trained as a sushi chef, I never looked back.”
Khan took the judges’ marks seriously when preparing for the competition and he hopes his traditional dish will help him stand out.
“This competition focuses on what you already know about Japanese cuisine,” he said. “I know I still have a lot to learn, but I’m pretty confident.”
Khan notes that washoku, which translates as “Japanese cuisine”, is a food culture that goes beyond sushi.
“The judges want to see different aspects of it,” he said. “Sushi falls under washoku, but we have the option to produce many more, such as a tempura.”
A starter of furofuki daikon ( Japanese radish with miso sauce) is also required of finalists, to ensure the chefs truly understand Japanese technique, according to Khan.
“The daikon will be braised, and we are expected to make our own dashi, or fish stock,” he said.
The finalists have one hour to create five plates of the starter dish and 90 minutes to produce their main course at the Hattori Nutrition College, Tokyo.
ON FORM: Chef Usman Khan.