A chef with more than a decade of international experience in a variety of kitchens, Chef Cristian explains his food journey that brought him to the new Japanese Argentinian restaurant Umi Shio at Summersalt, Dubai.
Food is something that has been important to me since I was a child. As the son of hard working parents the responsibility fell to me for the daily meals and from an early age I was in the kitchen. Through cooking for my family I found pleasure and the necessity for good, fresh food is an ingredient not only to be healthy but also happy.
I have kept close to my Japanese ancestry. I consider myself a proud Argentinian and Buenos Aires is my city. However my family was from Okinawa, a Japanese island in the East China Sea where citizens were renowned for their gentle temperament and life was relaxed and tranquil. Okinawa is famed for having the longest life expectancy in the world, due partly to the environment but also due to the abundance of fresh products and a culture of quality food. I believe I carry this spirit of calm into my cooking and into my kitchen.
“I found cooking as interesting as it was enjoyable. As a boy I liked to learn in the kitchen, and I still have that curiosity today. My grandparents left Japan with nothing. Their courage, as they made the long journey to Argentina by boat, has always been a source of inspiration and strength to me. I appreciate how lucky I am and I don’t waste time or opportunity. I am thankful to them for the life I have been able to enjoy, and for the strong work ethic they instilled in me.”
At 31 Chef Cristian is still a young talent, with a prosperous culinary road ahead. He is a 2nd generation Argentinian of Japanese descent. Growing up with the fusion between two very different and distinct worlds, Chef Cristian was inspired by the melding of the two cultures and the Nikkei cuisine that it inspired. His grandparents established a horticulture business on arrival in South American and became part of a growing Japanese immigrant community. Keen for their grandsons to know Japan, Chef Cristian and his brother spent summers at school in the city of Okinawa.
What brought you to Dubai?
The challenge of opening new restaurants and to learn about different cultures.
What is your ambition for Umi Shio at Summersalt?
My vision is for people to come and enjoy a relaxed atmosphere, not fine dining but still a place with exceptional food, great quality and taste. I want guests to enjoy generous food that they can share. The food is part of the experience.
Where’s your favourite place to travel?
I love travelling in my country, Argentina.
What do you do in your spare time?
I love to fish. As a youngster I would fish with grandfather along the river banks and lakes near where I grew up in Buenos Aires.
What makes your cooking so special?
I always try to make the diner happy.
Salmon Tataki sweet and sour sauce.
Favorite dish from Argentina?
My favourite food is asados, Argentinian barbecue. It is a very special way to cook meat and takes time and concentration. In Argentina it is more of a ritual than a cooking experience.
When I started my career I really admired Nobu and he was a source of inspiration to me. I liked his use of flavor and the Peruvian influence in his food. I don’t follow celebrity chefs so don’t have a particular hero. My mother had the biggest impact on me and influenced my decision to become a Chef. She had no time to cook when I was a child as she was working long hours building a life for me and my brother. I took over the responsibility for feeding us as a family and I enjoyed it so much I decided to dedicate my career to cooking. Today my mother has more time and she is an excellent cook.
Go to dish?
Japanese food particularly rice dishes, and ceviche.
You went to University as well a cooking school, why?
My mother wanted me to have a University education and so I studied Nutrition. I knew I wanted to be a Chef so I studied a subject that would complement my cooking path.
What is your first food memory?
Noodles and rice.
How do you see your culinary journey ending?
I want to live a relaxed and quite life back in Buenos Aires. Maybe have a little place where I can cook for friends. Somewhere to share good food but in simple and relaxed setting.