It’s no secret that North Park has some of the best restaurants in San Diego. Behind the incredible food inside these restaurants are some extremely talented chefs. We’re exploring North Park a little bit closer by starting a new series of blogs about chef travels. Our first interview features Chef Anthony Pascale.
Head chef and owner of North Park’s Saiko Sake + Sushi Bar, Anthony Pascale, recently traveled to Japan. We got the scoop on his trip, his favorite parts of the country, and what about Japan inspires him.
Q: Was this your first trip to Japan? If not, how many times have you been? What’s your favorite city?
A: This was my 3rd trip in 10 years. My wife is from there so we get back as often as we can. She is from Fuji in the Shizuoka Prefecture, but my favorite area is the Osaka/Kobe region.
Q: What did you discover in Japan that you plan on bringing to your restaurants?
A: I try not to copy anything I see over there. I just let the regionality and presentation of the food inspire me to work with the local and seasonal resources that are available here.
Q: What were your favorite sake finds? Will we see any new sakes at Saiko as a result of this recent trip?/ Did you learn any new sake knowledge?
A: I made it a point to drink sake that was not available in the U.S. I did visit two sake breweries (sake that we already carry). That was my most unique and memorable experience in all of my time in Japan.
Q: What triggered your love for Japanese cuisine?
A: I started working in a Japanese restaurant before I had much experience eating the food. My appreciation came from seeing it first hand.
Q: Besides the food, what was your favorite part about Japan?
A: Architecture. The homes, especially, are very interesting.
Q: How has this travel experience influenced you as a chef?
A: This trip was more about sake and I have a much better understanding of the process and effort it takes to produce sake.
Q: What was your favorite meal during your trip?
A: We had dinner with the owner of the Kamo Izumi Sake Brewery in his home in Saijo (small town outside of Hiroshima). His home was 100 years old and his wife prepared a 9 course meal for us with sake from the brewery. It was one of the best experiences of my career.
Q: As a chef, how do you apply your own unique spin or interpretation to Japanese food & culture?
A: I don’t. Japanese culture should be appreciated and respected for what it is. I let that appreciation inspire me to make food that is not necessarily Japanese.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of becoming a chef?
A: Especially in the beginning, it is a massive amount of work for little money. If you love what you are doing, it will all work out in the long run. If you don’t love it, you will be miserable. But, you have to understand that the sacrifice is a long term investment and the rewards will come later. It is on you to pay your dues and earn it.
Q: Any tips for someone traveling to Japan?
A: Make friends with a native and go with them.