On 28th September 2006, Bill Clinton, addressing the Labour Party Conference, introduced the idea of ubuntu to the British public: ‘society is important because of ubuntu…If we were the most beautiful, the most intelligent, the most wealthy, the most powerful person – and then found all of a sudden that we were alone on the planet, it wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans,’ said the former president.
A couple of years on, Archbishop Tutu reminded them of it, explaining that this Bantu word from South Africa – its literal translation, ‘I am because you are’ – ‘speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness.’
Continue reading ‘Ubuntu, Napa’
René Redzepi, Alain Passard, Mauro Colagreco…this may appear to be a shortlist of world’s most exciting chefs, but their names also comprise a checklist of those who have recently made their way across the world, from Europe to little Los Gatos, to cook at one specific restaurant – David Kinch’s Manresa.
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Irashaimase! This is the traditional welcome with which Hiro-san greets the guests that enter his eponymous Los Angeles restaurant.
It is a restaurant with a short story that starts with a notorious Japanese chef who, born in Tochigi, moved to Tokyo to work at the legendary Ginza Sushi-ko. In 1980 he left for LA and, after a few years there, he opened, with his former mentor’s permission, his own Ginza Sushi-ko. He became the most famous sushi chef in America with a reputation for superior sourcing – much of his ingredients were flown in straight from Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market – and for superior prices. He soon gained a name, fame and widespread following. One fan was Thomas Keller, who happened to be opening a second venture in New York City’s new Time Warner Centre and, through an agreement with the site’s developer, was able to hand pick which chefs would be permitted to share the building with him. He was Keller’s first choice and, in early 2004, was convinced to trade in Beverley Hills for Manhattan and a spot conveniently doors down from Keller’s Per Se. His name was Masayoshi Takayama (affectionately known as Masa). However, Masa was unable to manage two residences, so sold his former sushi-ko to his former ‘sous chef’. His name was Hiroyuki Urasawa.
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Events unforeseen and the United States government conspired to delay my arrival in the city by four hours. I had set aside sufficient time to unpack, undress, put on my suit and make it to Coi for an early dinner, but instead, I had to make my way straight from San Francisco International to the restaurant.
The comedy of my consequent enforced, cinematic-style change of clothes in the back of a cab admittedly assuaged some of my annoyance, but I also took comfort that Coi – an archaic French term for tranquil, but today commonly used to mean speechless/quiet – implied that it could be the perfect antidote to the day’s aggravating events.
Continue reading ‘Coi, San Francisco’