In this edition of Chef Chats, we interview the chef behind one of Tras street’s best restaurants that specialises in authentic Japanese and Italian cuisine
The buzz of the Michelin awards might have died down a little, but aren’t you curious about how some of these newly-crowned Michelin chefs are doing, post-win? We zero in on Chef Seita Nakahara of the one-star Terra Tokyo Italian (full review here), and find out a little bit more about his passion for Japanese food, his favourite Singaporean dish, and what he does when he’s not holding court in his resto’s kitchen.
Hello Seita-san! Congratulations again for winning a Michelin star. How has life changed for you since?
Thank you! Life remains the same, I’m in the kitchen every day, as I have been since the restaurant opened. It is a great feeling to be recognised.
Actually, what are your thoughts on the Michelin award? Do you think it’s a big deal?
I think it’s beautiful that there is an award like the Michelin, especially in Singapore, where it is such a competitive industry. It shows that Singaporeans are being more picky and knowledgeable about restaurants and food in general, and it pushes us chefs to work harder!
What does your family think about your success? And do you live with them in Singapore, or are they back home in Japan?
My family is back home in Japan, but my mother is coming to visit in October. She knows that I work in a restaurant, and in the kitchen. I am still working hard, and success is still a journey away.
Why did you first decide to blend Italian and Japanese ingredients? The two cuisines seem very different, but are they actually a lot more similar than people think?
My style of cooking is Italian cuisine using Japanese seasonal ingredients. I spent four years in Italy training in Italian techniques and classic Italian dishes. But of course, I am Japanese, and I look at things through Japanese eyes. The one thing I found to be similar between Italian and Japanese cooking is that the two styles truly respect the ingredients, and don’t try to play around with them too much. It’s an honest way of cooking that highlights the ingredient itself.
What is one dish that people who go to your restaurant must try?
The uni spaghetti is always a favourite.
Are there any chefs today who continue to inspire and influence your unique culinary style?
Chef Tetsuya from Waku Ghin. I read his story when I was a teenager and I aspired to be a chef like him – working overseas and breeding success in cities that he did not grow up in. I now train and push myself to improve every day to get a chance to work anywhere in the world.
How do you feel about the culinary talent in Singapore?
I think there are a lot of notable chefs in Singapore, and not just those in boutique restaurants, but also in the hawker centres and food courts. This country is so passionate about their food that even home cooks are creating amazing things.
What do you feel about the Japanese food scene in this country? Is it authentic?
Yes. I like having sushi here, and there are a lot of good Japanese chefs in Singapore.
What is your favourite thing about working in Singapore?
I like how you can go directly to the markets and speak with the people who sell you your produce and ingredients. I like the interaction behind that. Just like how I get my ingredients from Japan, I speak regularly with the farms and suppliers that I buy from, even when I am in Singapore.
And which is your favourite local dish?
I love chicken rice.
If you could cook a meal for one person in the world, who would it be?
Myself [laughs]! I would like to be able to be a regular customer in my restaurant and have Seita’s omakase. Sometimes I see my food go out of the kitchen and wish it was for me.
And finally, what do you like do in your free time?
Muay Thai. I go to the gym four times a week!
Terra, 54 Tras Street, Singapore 078993. p. 6221 5159. Open Mon-Fri 12pm-2pm (Last order), Mon-Sat 6.30pm-10pm (Last order). Closed on Sunday.