Tomoyuki “Tomo” Kobayashi, the first Japanese chef in the United States to earn the Academic Culinaire de France Diplome, showcases his Japanese and French training at a new Long Island restaurant, 1221 at MFP in the Roslyn Hotel.
Kobayashi, who grew up in the kitchen of his family’s inn, has blended his culinary experience in Japan with his classical French training at notable restaurants including Lespanisse, Alain Ducasse and Asiate at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, to offer a modern American menu with several cultural influences. Hospitality is a hallmark for Kobayashi with an emphasis on exceptional service.
Total Food Service had the opportunity to talk to Tomo Kobayashi about his inspirations, trainings, and ambitions for 1221 at MFP.
What experiences growing up inspired you to become a chef?
When I was a child, my family owned a small inn, Kobayashi Ryokan, in my home town, Yamaguchi Prefecture Japan. I would watch my aunt cook banquets of traditional Japanese food for the guests and was always intrigued. I would often assist by preparing the ingredients for the dishes and always thought that cooking was such an exciting thing to do. Throughout my childhood I would often see famous hotel executive chefs on TV and was amazed by their tall white hats and cool uniforms and wanted to become part of that too.
How did training in Japan differ from the training in the United States?
In Japan, training involved a lot of spiritualism. In my generation, the belief was that in order to start cooking you must have a strong mental stability. On the other hand, in the United States, I learned about the country’s culture and way of life. In order to serve them you must first know how they live. America is a giant melting pot after all, especially in New York.
Who are your culinary mentors and what were some of the most important things they taught you?
My culinary mentor is chef Christian Delouvrier. He taught me many important things, but one thing I will never forget is, “I learn from you, you learn from me.” I respect this quote of his and it is very important to me because it has been my guide throughout my entire career. You never know what can inspire you. It can be other chefs, a book, or even your kids.
How did your time in top kitchens such as Lespinasse, Alain Ducasse and The Modern prepare you for running your own kitchen?
At all of these establishments, my learning focused on the high standards of hospitality and service. However, they also taught me the importance of communication with your staff and peers. Communicating with the entire team in the kitchen is the key element to successful service. In order to keep things efficient, you must clearly state what you want them to do.
How would you describe your menu direction at 1221 at MFP?
Our menu offers both French and Japanese influenced modern American cuisine. I like to offer traditional items, such as salmon rillettes and chicken ballotine, and also more sophisticated preparations such as beef kimchi raclette and black bass with spiced miso broth.
How do you source product for your menu at 1221? Do you plan your menu around the seasons?
We incorporate organic and local products in our menu all year round. Long Island has such an inspiring bounty of locally sourced products. It elevates our menus to source what we can from our surrounding areas. We have planned menus for all four seasons at 1221 to take advantage of the ingredients that have limited availability throughout the year.
What new kitchen technology are you excited about and why?
I’m a little more old fashioned, but do understand the importance of embracing new technologies. Things like the “plancha,” a steam convection oven and a salamander are necessary. Most recently, to help improve and maintain service, we purchased a c-vap. It’s a wet and dry heat holding oven that will help our busier nights. Regardless, I believe the basic culinary skills are most important to perfect. You can’t rely on technology to carry out the kitchen.
To learn more about Tomoyuki Kobayashi and 1221 at MFP, visit their website.