Chef Tojo believes that if you do something right you only have to do it once. Or at least that is how he runs his very successful restaurant.
“I only have one Tojo restaurant,” he said. “But it is very good.”
Even if you haven’t heard of Tojo’s in Vancouver, you have almost certainly benefitted from what he has done for Japanese cuisine, especially sushi. Tojo is credited as the chef who invented the California Roll. For this reason, and because of his continued career success, Japan awarded him the title of “Japanese Cuisine Goodwill Ambassador” this past February.
“I appreciate that title very much,” he said. “I’m proud. I’m honoured.”
Tojo was born in southern Kagoshima, Japan, and at the age of 18 moved to Osaka to become a chef. He spent three years working in a renowned Ryotei, a term for Japanese restaurants with famous chefs that usually have hundreds of years of history, before moving to Canada on Oct. 25, 1971. He worked as a chef in a couple of restaurants before opening Tojo’s in its original location in 1988.
He has since won many culinary awards including “Best Upscale Restaurant” according to Vancouver Magazine in 2013, Zagat World’s Top Restaurant in 2012, and was named to the Wall Street Journal’s list of Top Ten Sushi Chefs in the world in 2009.
The restaurant currently employs 15-20 people. Tojo emphasizes that the praise for his food is a result of his use of local ingredients.
“Many people have never seen my style in Japan because I use local ingredients,” he said.
“You must be very passionate and you must love your job,” Tojo offers as advice for chefs who are just starting out. “You have to learn skill, knowledge, good technique and how to collaborate with others. Most importantly, use local ingredients.”