Noshing With Nobu

By Kelly Villasuso

Chef Nobu Matsuhisa

Actor Robert De Niro and Chef Nobu Matsuhisa

The “Emperor of Sushi.” The “Sushi God.” The “Sushi Tycoon.” A chef by any other name is not Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, the man behind the world’s obsession with Japanese-Peruvian fusion cuisine and…sushi. Critically acclaimed across the globe, Chef Nobu has amassed a Nobu restaurant empire (along with business partner actor Robert De Niro) with 32 restaurants in 28 different cities around the world, spanning across five continents, not to mention several family-held Matsuhisa restaurants (the namesake restaurant that started it all) and various boutique Nobu Hotels. International Opulence “noshed” with Chef Nobu about what his culinary superstardom means to him and what he hopes it means to his passionate followers.

International Opulence: Chef Nobu, your name has become synonymous with Japanese cuisine. What do you want “Nobu” to mean to your guests?
Chef Nobu: “Nobu Style” cuisine is rooted in tradition, but it is also influenced by new flavors, local ingredients, and our passion in the kitchen. When we first opened Nobu, our focus was on providing the best food made from the best ingredients and on giving our customers something made with passion. That is still our focus today. For me, it is always about our customers and creating something from the heart.

In the 23 years since we founded the first Nobu in New York, Japanese food has become part of the world’s cuisine, and we are proud that we have been a part of that, but there are still so many new ingredients to discover and new dishes to create, so I don’t look back, only forward. We are always working on something new. It keeps things exciting. Our fans keep asking for more Nobus! It’s like fashion—there are always upgrades, new materials and better quality ingredients. I don’t like to stop and say, ‘Okay, this is good.’ I’m always looking to make things better.

International Opulence: Chef, how does the Nobu restaurant experience transcend into your growing number of boutique hotels?
Chef Nobu: It was a fun challenge to think about how to create a Nobu experience in a hotel. We all want to be surrounded by the things we love when we travel, but also discover something new. So, first we started with a comfortable bed, beautiful sheets, phone charger in the right place. It became very important to have a clean palate—like a clean plate—so that you can experience your beautiful surroundings. Room service from Nobu is always good, too!

International Opulence: Did you ever consider leaving your day job as “Sushi God” to become an actor after your appearances in the movies Casino, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Girl from Nagasaki, and Austin Powers: Goldmember?
Chef Nobu: I really enjoyed being part of these movies, but in general, I do the cooking and Bob (Robert De Niro) does the acting.

International Opulence: Chef Nobu, after your restaurant in Anchorage, Alaska, burned to the ground, you thought it was your last chance to make something of yourself. All your hopes and ambitions had gone up in smoke. You fell into depression and started to think that the only way to get out of it was to take your own life. What words do you offer on perseverance to others facing similar crises or paralyzing loss?
Chef Nobu: Be patient, try your best, appreciate what you have, and focus on your food. Cook with your heart. If you keep trying your best, good things happen. It’s important to remember to take it one step at a time. Eventually, you’ll be able to look back and see how far you’ve come. It’s a great feeling.

International Opulence: Do you have any culinary “guilty pleasures”?
Chef Nobu: Tequila, especially Don Julio 1942.

International Opulence: Who is your favorite chef outside of the Matsuhisa and Nobu restaurants?
Chef Nobu: I never like to say favorite, but I am lucky to have close friends who are talented chefs like Eric Ripert, Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, Jose Andres and Jean-Georges. I also just worked with Danny Garcia in Marbella and that was a special experience.

International Opulence: Where do you like to go to decompress from the hustle and bustle?
Chef Nobu: My home in Japan where I can relax with family.

Signature Rock Shrimp Creamy Spicy by Chef Nobu Matsuhisa

International Opulence: What makes you most proud about Nobu?
Chef Nobu: We have Nobu restaurants on five continents. I feel like I have the biggest family in the world and people are still saying that Nobu is the best Japanese restaurant. We have millions of guests who eat at our restaurants every year and enjoy our food. So, I’m very proud of how far we’ve come.

In the United States, you’ll find Nobu restaurants in New York, Malibu, Dallas, San Diego, Las Vegas Hard Rock, Las Vegas Caesars Palace, Los Angeles, Miami, Newport Beach, Honolulu and Lanai.

To locate Nobu locations abroad, go to noburestaurants.com.

Noshing With Nobu