The certification program of Japanese Food and Ingredient Supporter Stores Overseas
Interview of Suppoter Stores Kazu's Kitchen
The Chef and the Owner of Restaurants who has Contributed to the Expansion of the Japanese Food Culture in Mexico
Mexico City / Mexico
The Chef who Leads the Japanese Food Culture in Mexico
Polanco district is one of the most exclusive residential areas in Mexico City. Kazu’s Kitchen is located in this area which houses a number of fine international restaurants. Many men and women from their 30s to 50s visit Kazu's Kitchen. In addition to Mexican customers, people from Europe such as Italy, Spain, and France living temporarily as resident officers in Mexico account for 30% of the restaurant’s clientele. The reason why gourmets from all over the world keep coming back to the restaurant in search of authentic Japanese food is not only the quality of the food, but also because of the restaurant’s Japanese female chef. Ms. Kazu Kumoto, the restaurant’s owner and chef, has lived in Mexico since 1969 and has been serving Japanese food for in-flight meals for nearly ten years as an in-flight meal supervisor for Mexico's flag carrier "Aeroméxico". She has experience in developing Japanese food menus under extremely strict cost control conditions that satisfy customers at “an altitude of 9,000 meters” while considering the taste preferences of Mexican passengers. She introduces the Japanese cuisine in a cooking program broadcasted by a national TV station in Mexico. She also works as a Japanese food advisor at a major hotel. Kumoto is one of the main representatives of the Japanese food culture in Mexico and has contributed to its growth.
Kumoto's Japanese cuisine is genuine and authentic. Kazu's Kitchen has a wide range of meal menus to meet the diverse needs of customers. She has been serving genuine Japanese food in Mexico for many years and lots of long-time fans visit her restaurants. There are even many elderly customers who come to her restaurant with their children and grandchildren.
Mexican Employees with Long Career Working at Kazu’s Kitchen
According to Kumoto, most of her Mexican clientele prefers generously salted and spiced flavors. Since Mexico City’s altitude is above 2,000 meters, it is said that it is hard to taste salty flavors. For this reason, soy sauce and other seasonings are often overspread in meals. Kazu's Kitchen uses low-salt soy sauce to maintain the taste of the meal. Also, because of the city’s altitude, the water’s boiling point is low and the core of white rice tends to remain hard, so it is cooked in a pressure cooker instead of a rice cooker.
Mexican employees who understand Kumoto's feelings and ideas as well as Japanese cuisine, talk to the customers and explain to them in detail all about the dishes cooked with Japanese ingredients that are unfamiliar to them. Even though Japanese companies and restaurants in Mexico are struggling to retain employees through repeated headhunting, employees at Kazu’s Kitchen have been working for at least four or five years. Veteran employees have been working under Kumoto for more than ten years. “I don't particularly behave to make my employees like me. I strictly supervise their attitude towards work and try to point out what they can improve. We give travel opportunities to Japan to those employees who excel so that they can grow even more and broaden their views", says Kumoto.
At present, "You can Get Anything What You Want" in Mexico
"I have a passion that hasn’t changed for a long time. I want our customers to enjoy Japanese food, to taste real Japanese food”, says Kumoto. In the past, it was very difficult to purchase Japanese food ingredients and beverages, but now the number of Japanese food wholesalers has increased, and the lineup of foods has expanded. For her, Mexico became the place where “she can get anything she wants”. It is difficult to express the delicate taste of Japanese cuisine with only local Mexican ingredients. For many years she struggled to get ingredients and now she is so grateful for the wholesalers’ long-time effort who made it possible to obtain authentic Japanese products. At the restaurant they offer not only sake but various types of shochu (distilled spirits). Their alcoholic drink menu even includes rice shochu. When couples come to the restaurant for dinner, they are very pleased with the sparkling Japanese sake.
Menus that utilize Japanese sablefish are favored by many customers. Kazu’s Kitchen serves scallops and yellowtail from Japan. In order to provide Mexican customers with various experiences through Japanese food, they have previously held kaiseki cuisine events and have been working on the concept of “mariage (paring food and sake)”.
Continue to Take on Challenges in the Expanding Japanese Food Market in Mexico
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Kumoto won’t let problems push her down. They started an online cooking class using an online conference system. She shared her future goals with us. "I would like to pass on the connections and knowledge I have cultivated in Mexico to the next generation. I am thinking of opening new restaurants in Mexico City and other cities in the near future." She turns 72 years old this year and says she has never given retirement a thought. In addition to expanding the business, she has a plan to teach and manage Japanese food and cuisine classes at El Colegio de Mexico. “I want to work hard until I’m 100 years old”, says Kumoto. It seems that her long-lasting desire for wanting Mexican people to eat “real Japanese food in Mexico” that she has had for more than half a century is not waning, but rather it seems to be getting stronger as years go by.