Can Every Japanese Chef Make Japanese Curry!?
1. Global Boom of Japanese Curry
TasteAtlas, an interactive travel website that introduces traditional cuisines, announced “Best Traditional Dishes in the World” in December 2022. It caused a buzz among Japanese people, since “Japanese Curry” was ranked first, instead of sushi or ramen. Japanese curry is characteristic with its thick sauce and uniquely developed over the last 100 years, influenced by curry in other countries, like India, the origin of the dish. Before we realize, Japanese curry seems to have become one of the Japanese traditional dishes from an international perspective.
Curry spread in Japan as an affordable food that is available for about 1,000 JPY (approx. 7 USD). On the streets in Japan, we can find various restaurants that have curry on their menu. It is said that there are about 2,200 places that specialize in curry all over the country. Not only basic curry served with rice but also curry bread or curry udon are popular among Japanese people.
As you already know, curry has become one of the common dishes at Japanese restaurants around the world. According to the 2015 study by the Japan External Trade Organization, there are 518 Japanese restaurants in London, 440 of which serve sushi and 284 serve curry. When we ask people in Europe, the United States, or Asia, about favorite Japanese foods, curry is one of the top five along with sushi, sashimi, and ramen.
Coco Ichibanya is a globally renowned curry chain restaurant. As of the end of February 2022, they have 1,259 shops in Japan and 202 overseas (the United States, UK, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, and India).
The Michelin Guide has a category for curry and 16 restaurants are listed with the Bib Gourmand as of March 2023 (15 of them are in Japan, one in the United States).
2. What Is Japanese Curry?
Then, what is the difference between Japanese curry and the one in other countries? In general, curry is a generic term that indicates Indian stewed dishes cooked with a lot of spices. On the other hand, Japanese curry was imported through the UK about 150 years ago. Japanese curry is not soup-like: it uses flour to thicken the sauce. The story goes that the British Navy was cooking curry with flour so that they would not spill the soup on a swaying ship and the dish was then imported by Japanese people, but we never know if it is true. Common Japanese curry stews potatoes, carrots, onions, and meat with store-bought roux and is served with white rice. In one questionnaire, more than 70% of Japanese people cooked curry on their own. It is one of the popular foods that are widely served in common households. Vermont Curry, a typical ready-made curry roux, accounts for 30% of the market and is also sold at Japanese grocery stores abroad, so it should not be difficult to obtain ingredients for Japanese curry in your countries.
Among the 2,200 curry specialty restaurants in Japan, wide-ranging types of the dish are served: curry made with the base of Indian spices or curry influenced by Thai curry or soto ayam in Indonesia. Main ingredients used in Japanese curry also vary, including beef, pork, chicken, tonkatsu, seafood, and vegetables, while there are various styles like soup curry and keema curry. If you walk on the street in Japan, you can see how much Japanese people love curry. In particular, Jimbocho in Tokyo is well known as a competitive area for curry shops. There are estimated to be 60 curry specialty restaurants within a 1km radius, which make this town a mecca for curry fans all over Japan.
3. How Do We Find Japanese Curry Chefs?
Many sushi chefs open their own restaurants after working and training at a famous place since they are young, but the head chefs at successful curry restaurants have such a variety of careers. Of course, there are some chefs who opened their place after working at a prestigious curry restaurant, but quite a few have their own restaurants, even though they had no experience in the food service before: they liked curry and created their own recipes through trial and error.
The restaurants awarded the Bib Gourmand in the Michelin Guide are run by chefs with diverse histories: a chef who had been working as a businessperson without food service experiences until in their 30s and went to a government-authorized culinary training school (Chorishi Senmon Gakko) or a chef who had been working in the marketing of a record label and taught himself cooking by visiting different curry restaurants. The only similarity among these successful chefs is that they have an inexhaustible drive to pursue their own curry.
Then, how should we recruit a chef from a curry restaurant? Although there are about 2,200 restaurants that serve curry mainly, only a few chefs wish to work abroad, and it is not easy to headhunt them. Yet, as above mentioned, curry is a very common food to cook at home and almost every Japanese chef must have made it. Even if they have not served curry as part of the restaurant menu, many chefs like curry and have their own recipes. Avoid focusing on work experiences in the resume and hear out if the chef has experiences of cooking curry or is motivated to develop it as a menu. Finding a chef that is looking in the same direction with you in this process is the quickest way to hire a perfect chef for curry.
If you are looking for a chef who can add curry on the menu of your Japanese restaurants, contact Washoku Agent!
4. What If I Have a Problem in Hiring?
“I do not know what my restaurant should feature to attract Japanese chefs.”
“I have an idea of the chefs I am looking for, but I do not know how to find them.”
“We tried to recruit on our own before without success, so we want to find a truly skillful chef this time.”
“Since no staff member speak Japanese, we want to entrust the whole task of hiring Japanese chefs to someone else.”
If you have a problem in recruiting Japanese chefs, feel free to contact us Washoku Agent!