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Goodwill ambassadors play the leading role

A “Shonai, Food Capital” goodwill ambassador’s role is:
Explain the excellent qualities of locally produced in-season ingredients, and promote them to restaurants in metropolitan areas.
Introduce guests and chefs passing through the area to the high-quality foods of Shonai and the passion of the people who produce them.
Share the most distinctive local flavors, from traditional crops to specialty foodstuffs, with the world.

Goodwill Ambassadors

Goodwill ambassadors play the leading role

Chef Masahiro Ota

Chef Masahiro Ota

— L'Oasis Restaurant — Grand Chef

Hometown: Kanagawa Prefecture
Born: 1943
After spending time working at many different locations, including Tokyo Station Hotel, Tokyo Kaikan, and Restaurant Actress, he settled in at Keyaki Restaurant in 1968, before switching over to Le pot-au-feu in 1973 to become head chef.
Not only has he been working as an instructor at Tenshin Academy since the inception of its renowned culinary arts curriculum, he also teaches western-style cooking at the Sakata Training College for Cooks. On the side, he serves as an advisor at Shonai’s DEC (Development of European Food Creation) Club—a local group of chefs who cook western-style, aiming to refine their techniques—and participates in all sorts of group events. He’s also one of 12 “meisters” who provide culinary guidance for the Shonai Beach Culture Evangelists, a group aiming to preserve Japan’s traditional seafood cuisines as an integral part of the Japanese diet. He’s the leading figure when it comes to Shonai food culture! In 2009 he was awarded a commendation by the city of Sakata, and in 2010 he was recognized by Yamagata Prefecture for distinguished service in the realm of commerce, industry, and tourism. As a locally based advocate for Shonai’s foods and culinary cultural inheritance, he works tirelessly to support the local food movement.

Message

At six in the morning at the fish market, the spirited voices of competitors call out their offerings: salmon, sandfish, small-mouth righteye flounder, Beard grunt, abalone, Japanese rock oysters, brook trout—a bounty nourished by underground waters and the purest of streams, gushing out from Mt. Chokai at the end of their hundred-year journeys. Red leeks, red turnips, taro, Shonai persimmons, asian pears, and other freshly harvested fruits and vegetables too! All of these foods arrive at the table through the work of chefs intimately familiar with Shonai. Pure air, sweet water, and delicious food: you absolutely must come to Shonai and experience its flavors.

Chef Masayuki Okuda

Chef Masayuki Okuda

— Al-ché-cciano — Executive Chef and Owner

Hometown: Tsuruoka City
Born: 1969
After graduating from a local high school, he left for Tokyo to train in the making of French and Italian cuisines, traditional French pastries, and Italian gelato. After returning to his hometown, he served as the head chef in two restaurants. In 2000, he established his current restaurant, built around the concept of cooking with native vegetables and other seasonal, locally grown ingredients. He offers a menu of dishes that allows diners to feel close to the local growers who brought the ingredients into being. His television debut on TBS’s documentary program “Jonetsu Tairiku” in 2006 was covered by nearly every mass media outlet, and he became a household name overnight. In the same year, he became one of 1000 people (including 11 from Japan) selected by Slow Food International as Terra Madre 2006. In May of 2009 he created “YAMAGATA San-Dan-Delo” on the second floor of the Yamagata Antenna Shop in Tokyo, to showcase the tastes of Shonai season-by-season from the capital itself. On top of all that, he’s a “meister” in the Shonai Beach Culture Evangelists local seafood promotion group. In 2009, he received an award from the city of Tsuruoka for promoting the development of local farming, and one from Food Action Nippon Award in the category of communication and enlightenment. In 2010, he was awarded the first Shizuo Tsuji Award of Gastronomy along with the Yamagata Forum for Indigenous Crops, and in that same year received the “Cooking Masters” award from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries for making significant contributions in promoting the use of homegrown ingredients and popularizing Japanese cuisine. These days, though he’s still focused on local fare, he’s a culinary idol in metropolitan areas, and even overseas!

Message

In Shonai, time flows sweetly from past into present. The whole of nature and its ever-changing seasons, all manner of creatures (i.e. foods) beneath the undulating waves of the sea, the spiritual air of the sacred Dewa Sanzan mountains, the comings and goings of “Kitamae-bune”, and innovative cultivation: all fuse to create a food culture that couldn’t exist anywhere but here. The current has gone this way and that over the centuries, but flows deep and strong in Shonai even now.

Chef Hiroshi Furusho

Chef Hiroshi Furusho

— Food Coordinator

Hometown: Oita Prefecture
Born: 1953
After working as head chef for the Japanese ambassador to Morocco and at the Osaka Dai-Ichi Hotel, in 1999 he became head chef at the Tokyo Dai-Ichi Hotel Tsuruoka. In 2006, he became the chief general manager at ALICE IN Takamatsu by QUEEN ALICE, and in 2008 began his tenure as the headmaster at Murakawa Academy’s Osaka Cooking and Confectionery College. He currently makes his living as a freelance food coordinator. His specialty is French cuisine, but he offers a multi-national variety, including French, Italian, Chinese, and ethnic dishes. He has a great deal of experience appearing on television: during his time at Osaka Dai-Ichi Hotel, he appeared on many popular programs such as “Iron Chef.” Right now he’s at the center of the Osaka cooking scene, working energetically toward his goal of elevating the reputation of Shonai fare and promoting its usage country-wide.

Message

The charm of Shonai, after all is said and done, is born of its remarkable natural environment. This region’s vegetables, wild plants, fruits, rice, saké, and other fare are of only the finest quality, bursting with nature’s blessings and rich nutrients from the earth. Possessing natural healing power, they can detoxify the body and strengthen immunity. With seasonal food made of these local ingredients, you can look forward to health benefits even as you enjoy the ambrosial taste.

Chef Masatomi Toki

Chef Masatomi Toki

— Japanese Food Cooking expert

Hometown: Tsuruoka
After graduating from the Sakata Training College for Cooks, he worked at the traditional Japanese restaurant Kamezaki and the Arkbell Group “Sakata Heiankaku”, both in Sakata. He served as the head chef at the BERNARD SAKATA wedding venue and the Shonai division of the Arkbell Group from 1994 until he retired in 2011. In the 12 years spanning 1998 to 2000, he also served as a part-time instructor for Tenshin Gakuen High school culinary arts program, helping to grow the talents of up-and-coming chefs. He is an instructor with the All-Japanese Association of Culinary Artisans and the Association of Japanese-style Culinary Arts Instructors, and in 2007 was named a “meister”-level Japanese cooking expert by the Association of Japanese Artisans. In 2004, at the 18th All-Japanese Cooking Competition, he was awarded the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries prize (the highest possible award) in the regional cuisine category. In 2005, he received an official commendation from Yamagata Prefecture’s governor for superior culinary skill, and even today continues to expand his efforts toward popularizing Japanese cuisine. He currently serves as Vice President for Yamagata Prefecture’s branch of the Association of Japanese Culinary Artisans, as well as its “Cherry Tree Association”—an association of culinary instructors specializing in Japanese cuisine from the Shonai region.

Message

I was born and raised in Dewa Province, and am proud to have thus been able to study the magnificent cuisine of Shonai. The Shonai region has a natural environment so rich it can hold its own against any World Cultural Heritage Site. Mt. Chokai, the Mogami river, the Shonai sea, and the panacean holy ground of the Dewa Sanzan mountains: the ingredients bred in these places are of course both fresh and delicious. I love using them to invent new dishes while protecting and nurturing our cultural heritage. I value hospitality and every day aim to refine a new “food culture” so that visitors from all over the world will come visit Shonai.