This 3 Michelin star restaurant chef has a philosophy that can be applied to any career

Shinobu Namae’s entry into the culinary world was not “fancy”. It was just a question of survival – “I had to make money,” he says, laughing.

“Back then, the easiest way to get a job as a student was to become a dishwasher. That’s how I started my career.”

It wasn’t long before Namae was being “thrown” onions and garlic to peel at the restaurant during his free time. Although it wasn’t glamorous work, he enjoyed it.

“There aren’t many jobs that respond immediately to your work. When you serve delicious food, you can see it on customers’ faces,” he told CNBC Make It.

“It’s a very, very nice job to be in the kitchen and see people happy.”

It is an ability to feel for others and to make others feel cared for. That’s a very important part of being a chef in a restaurant.

Shinobu Namae

Chef at L’Effervescence

Thus began a love affair that saw Namae work his way up the kitchens of Japan and England for seven years before opening L’Effervescence in Tokyo 13 years ago.

The restaurant, which spotlights Japanese produce with modern European cooking techniques, has since been awarded three Michelin stars – for the third year in a row.

Most recently, Namae received the Icon award for his contributions to the food world at the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023 event. His restaurant was ranked 44th on the list.

The 50-year-old chef tells CNBC Make It about his culinary philosophy and what motivates him to keep learning.

From politics to food

Before falling in love with cooking, Namae studied politics at Tokyo’s Keio University – a field he says has parallels with the food world.

“I’ve always been very interested in humanity and what makes us human…Politics is about understanding the relationship between people, communities and nations,” he said.

The interior of L’Effervescence. The restaurant claims its power sources are sustainable, such as using firewood from forest thinning for cooking.

His work in the food industry has helped him deepen this understanding. Food cultures may differ, but what’s universal is the desire to connect with others and find joy through food, he said.

“We can laugh at our ability…to consume or serve fancy food in a great atmosphere,” Namae said.

“But it is an ability to have compassion for others and to make others feel cared for. That’s a very important part of being a chef in a restaurant.”

That’s why he believes caring for something that takes a person to greater heights is the “fundamental ability” of people — not just chefs.

Most people become narrow-minded because they focus on techniques and details [of dishes]. These are beautiful things, but we also have to take care of our surroundings.

Shinobu Namae

Chef, L’Effervescence

“That’s the starting point for my work as a chef: if we don’t care about the ingredients, we won’t cook well. If we don’t take care of our people, we don’t have a strong team and we will be in trouble,” Namae said.

“If we don’t care about the customer – if a chef only cooks what he or she likes… the business will not thrive.”

ethics of gastronomy

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