Chef in Residence
In August and September of 2022, the owner of Tokyo-based élab, Takako Oyama, and Chef, Yoko Aoyagi, stayed in Tachibana-machi, Yame. (élab focuses on the theme, “coexistence, circulation, and regeneration with nature.”) This Part 2 report introduces their second stay in September 2022.
September 13th, Tuesdsay
The second part of the Chef in Residence program has started!
On the first day, the group visited the workshop of bamboo craftsmen, Mr. Ishida and Ms. Nagaoka. Due to the decrease in the number of people engaged in bamboo crafts and the increase in neglected bamboo forests, the distribution of bamboo is rapidly decreasing in Yame. Mr. Ishida and Ms. Nagaoka manage their own bamboo forest in Kurogi Town, Yame, and carry out bamboo harvesting.
After visiting the workshop, the participants went with Mr. Ishida to the bamboo grove in Kurogi Town. Here the group got to see the cycle of management and production of bamboo groves and crafts within Yame City.
In the afternoon, the group visited Mr. Suetsugu’s farm to harvest his pesticide-free vegetables for use in the final lunch event. The participants picked summer vegetables such as eggplants, bell peppers, okra, and ginger.
Back at the farmer’s guest house, Omichidani no Sato, mother and daughter pair, Ms. Kayo, and Ms. Makiko Nakajima, warmly welcomed the group back for their second visit. During the first part of the Chef in Residence program in August, Ms. Aoyagi and Ms. Oyama expressed their interest in making konjac the traditional way with wood ash. The following day, Ms. Kayo and Ms. Makiko Nakajima started to prepare wood ash by burning the branches of mandarin orange and other trees. After being mixed with water, the liquid was allowed to slowly drip out overnight, like drip coffee.
On the morning of the second day, the participants helped out on Ms. Kayo Nakajima’s Omichidani no Sato farm. Ms. Kayo Nakajima and her daughter Makiko cultivate various pesticide-free vegetables throughout the year which are used in the meals they prepare for their guests.
In the afternoon, the group tried their hand at making konjac using Omichidani no Sato’s wood ash. During the previous Chef in Residence program, konjac was made using calcium hydroxide. This time, wood ash was used to make it the traditional way.
The konjac potatoes that were harvested in autumn, then boiled and frozen, were mixed with the wood ash lye and then put in a blender. Soon the mixture started to harden and clump together. Compared to last time, this konjac was different as the lye gave it a deep and unique flavor.
Dinner was cooked by Ms. Kayo and Ms. Makiko Nakajima, along with Ms. Aoyagi and Ms. Oyama. Ms. Aoyagi made a special dish by cooking the seeds and fibers of bitter melon in olive oil. Even the locals, who are specialists in bitter melon cuisine, found eating the dish a new experience. The women from the former Ouchi Residence Cooking Research Group also consulted the group for new menu ideas that utilize okara (soybean pulp).
September 15th, Thursday
On the third day, the group spent time with Ms. Maki Tanaka. First, they learned about “nuka-doko”, a technique of using a bed of salted rice bran for pickling. Ms. Tanaka showed the rice bran bed that she manages at the former Ouchi Residence and allowed the group to sample it. After, using fresh rice bran and spices such as pepper and chili pepper, the group made a new nuka-doko. During the visit, Ms. Tanaka taught how to care for the rice bran on a daily basis, and how to fix it if it goes bad.
Afterward, the group had the chance to see a beautiful “fabric” piece made by Ms. Tanaka and other women involved with the former Ouchi Residence. It was made by unraveling old kimonos left behind at the residence and stitching them together, little by little, into patchwork art. Seeing the fabric, the group realized that the piece reflects Ms. Tanaka’s philosophy of using materials and ingredients without waste.
In the evening, preparations were made for the final day’s unveiling lunch. See Part 3 of this report for more information on the unveiling lunch!