Growing up in a culinary family, Chef Takeumi Hiraoka was introduced to life in the kitchen at an early age. After a successful career in his native Japan, as well as achieving mastery of authentic knife skills, Chef Takeumi explored the world – starting with Eurasia and later the Middle East. His latest venture brought him to Southeast Asia, where he joined the team at Park Hyatt Jakarta, leading its KITA 喜多 Restaurant at Park Hyatt Jakarta.
E: We hear that you come from a long line of culinary professionals. Can you tell us more about your family?
A: My grandfather was a master of Japanese cuisine. I am told that my great-grandfather was a samurai in the Edo period, possibly one who also cooked in a castle, which eventually started our family’s journey with cooking.
E: What was the first dish you learnt from your family before you learnt it at school or at work? Was it difficult to learn?
A: Similar to my grandfather, my grandmother was an expert in making buckwheat noodles. Naturally, soba was the first dish I learned how to make as I used to make it with her. Just like pasta and udon, homemade soba is really tasty. I hope to show you one day if I get the chance.
E: Why did you decide it was time to move abroad and pursue your career overseas?
A: The reason I moved overseas was because I wanted to let everyone know more about Japan. Cooking is an important communication tool for me. Even though we speak different languages and come from different countries, we all share the same values of deliciousness. I started in Baku, Azerbaijan in 2014, when I joined a restaurant that was owned by a wealthy Azerbaijani family, which at the time was going through a renewal process.
E: You spent much of your career in Doha. How would you describe the culinary scene in Doha? What was your most memorable experience working there?
A: Doha is interesting and a creative space. It brings out innovative cooking techniques derived from limited ingredients – even though they have quite diverse spices. The food culture is a blend of many cuisines, with strong British and Asian influences. As for my memories there, I will never forget the scorching hot land, where the temperature can rise as high as 55 degrees Celsius during the day!
E: If you were to pitch a full dining experience at KITA 喜多 Restaurant, what would you recommend for starters, mains and desserts?
A: I would recommend the tuna tataki with refreshing ponzu sauce for starters, as well as Kita salad Kyoto Gion with white miso sauce. For the main course, you should try the char-grilled wagyu beef sirloin and our earthenware rice cooked from raw rice. As for the dessert, I would give you a must-try item: matcha pudding and kinako mochi – it’s highly recommended.
E: What is your impression of Indonesia and Jakarta? How is life here different compared to other countries you have been to?
A: One thing that immediately got my attention was the beautiful smiles and compassion of the people in Jakarta. As for my field of work, the abundance of seafood and ingredients is fascinating. I also notice that many people like to eat Japanese food. I really like spending time here.
E: We have heard that you like photography. Can you tell us more about this hobby?
A: I take photos with my Leica M10-P, Apo Summicron 50mm and Summilux 35mm. Before I arrived in Jakarta, I spent a year in Kyoto and took about 3,000 photos of the four seasons at different landmarks in the city – Arashiyama, Gion, Nanzenji, Higashiyama, Ohara and Taiza.
E: Following the previous question, what is the best photograph you have taken since living in Indonesia?
A: Unfortunately, I haven’t taken any photos that I can call the best yet. I hope to take more in the future – but the problem is, I don’t have much time to take them. At least for now.
Exquisite Taste Volume 39
KITA 喜多 Restaurant
Park Hyatt Jakarta
Jalan Kebon Sirih No. 17-19
Jakarta 10340, Indonesia
T: (+62) 2131190333