Hajime Yoneda | From Dawn of Mankind to Dinner Table: Osaka’s culinary enfant terrible talks evolution of food.
Diet is deeply related to the evolution of life. In the evolution of life tHE consumption of food has been the center of everything - Hajime Yoneda
Since the earliest life forms existed on the earth, creatures have changed and adapted to the volatile environments of our planet and passed down their dominance from one generation to the next. In the evolution of life, the consumption of food has been the center of everything. It is said that animals evolved from plants in order to consume essential amino acids. It is not clear whether these organisms started moving in order to consume essential amino acids or if they moved first which made the consumption possible. Either way, it is well known that the first thing they consumed was essential amino acids.
Animals have evolved by eating. As life forms rose up out of the oceans and onto the land, the things they ate also changed. This is why I say diet is deeply related to the evolution of life.
Regarding the evolution of the family Hominidae, chimpanzees, for example, eat by chewing raw food for six hours. The earliest Homo sapiens started using fire to prepare their food, which allowed them to shorten the time of chewing. As a result, they could use their time more efficiently which led to the development of their brains. Eventually, humans started preparing their food by cutting, drying, roasting, boiling, grilling, etc.
One of Hajime Yoneda's most spectacular creations: Planet Earth
Considering how diet and food preparation have changed alongside evolution, Gastronomy, our new way of thinking about food, will certainly affect our evolution in the future. Chefs who are willing to be pioneers in new fields hold the future of the earth and its inhabitants in their hands. We should realize our responsibility, work on our culinary art diligently, and continue to provide hope to the people of our earth, and the earth itself. I believe this is the mission of Gastronomy. What you eat impacts your future”.
Hajime Yoneda’s rise to culinary stardom has been a far from conventional trajectory. Born in Osaka in 1972, he developed a passion for mathematics and, later, electrical engineering. In 1996 he gave up a promising career in electronic design to work and study in kitchens in France and Japan. In May, 2008 he opened Hajime RESTAURANT GASTRONOMIQUE OSAKA JAPON, marrying the techniques, ingredients and culinary traditions of those two countries. Success was instant, and within 17 months of opening, his Osaka restaurant had garnered the ultimate accolade — 3 Michelin stars, the fastest such award in history.
Yet Yoneda remained ever the maverick. When he felt that the illustrious French committee was beginning to interfere in his creative process – apparently demanding that he ‘stay true to French roots’ – he promptly told them to put their stars where the sun doesn’t shine. In May 2012 he renamed his restaurant HAJIME. He continues to be as innovative as ever, and HAJIME remains as popular as ever.
Further update: In addition to the 3-star Michelin award, chef Yoneda has also been named on the 100 Best Chefs in the World 2018 by French Magazine Le Chef. As indeed have Foodies Go Local friends and interviewees, Seiji Yamamoto and Yoshihiro Narisawa. Interview with Chef Yamamoto coming soon! Read our Narisawa interview with the man who invented 'soil soup'.
A version of this article first appeared in ‘Beyond the Chopping Board: Master Chefs ponder the Meaning and Value of Food’ by John F. Ashburne in Kyoto Journal #83, 'FOOD!'. It is reproduced with kind permission of the publishers. Kyoto Journal is an award-winning non-profit volunteer-based quarterly magazine established in 1986 offering insights from Kyoto, Japan and all of Asia.
Photograph Courtesy of Yoneda Hajime.