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Charlie Trotter has said of Tetsuya - "Tetsuya is part of an elite group of international chefs that has influenced other chefs through their personal styles and unique approaches to food. His culinary philosophy centres on pure, clean flavours that are decisive, yet completely refined. His amazing technique, Asian heritage, sincere humility, worldwide travels and insatiable curiosity combine to create incredible, soulful dishes that exude passion in every bite." He also appeared as the leading judge in the final episode of the second season of Junior MasterChef Australia.
Kinsela’s and beyond (1983–1989)
In 1983, Wakuda met Sydney chef Tony Bilson (now head chef of the acclaimed Bilson's restaurant), who offered him a job preparing sushi at Kinsela’s in Taylor Square. Under Bilson, Wakuda learnt many of the classical French techniques that underpins much of Wakuda’s Japanese-French fusion cooking today. Bilson was also the first to begin fostering Wakuda’s drive to discover new flavours that has become part of Wakuda’s culinary philosophy, by encouraging him to experiment during his time at Kinsela’s. Wakuda says of his time at Kinsela's "At Kinsela's was where I realised I wanted to, and discovered that I could, cook. It was where I started learning classical French technique. I made up a lot of things along the way, and luckily for me, people liked the way it tasted."
Wakuda left Kinsela’s in 1983, and together with one of the managers from Kinsela’s set up Rose’s nightclub, where Wakuda worked as a chef for a year. After leaving Rose’s, he was introduced to chef Hans Mohr through the late restaurateur Anders Ousback. He worked as second chef with Mohr for only six months.
After a short stint as head chef at Hunters Hill’s The Post and Whistle, Wakuda started Ultimo’s with a Kinsela’s head waiter Sean Dwyer in 1986. It was here that he began learning the responsibilities of operating a business. Two years later however his partner was forced to leave the business, and Wakuda decided to sell rather than take over due to the high rent and unsatisfactory location.
Wakuda turned his attention to starting a new restaurant of his own together with his wife. He chose a tiny shopfront in the suburb of Rozelle as the location.
Rozelle years (1989–2000)
Over the years, the restaurant attracted favourable reviews. In 1992 the influential The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide awarded the restaurant Three Hats - the highest possible rank. Wrote one 1990’s GFG reviewer:
|“||Tetsuya Wakuda is one of our most successful exponents of fusion cuisine, and the subtle Franco-Japanese creations […] are subtle, elegant, exquisitely balanced and in no way designed to draw attention to their creator.
-– The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide
The restaurant was remodelled in 1993, increasing seats to 65, with an expanded and re-fitted kitchen. In November 2000 Tetsuya’s moved to a larger, more glamorous location in Sydney’s CBD where it remains today.
Kent Street (2000 – present)
Tetsuya’s occupies a large, heritage-listed property on Kent St in Sydney’s CBD that once housed the former Suntory Restaurant. The restaurant seats up to 140 people, including private dining rooms and two larger main dining rooms overlooking a Japanese garden.
Many of the modern sculpture works displayed around the restaurant were made by his friend, the late sculptor Akio Makigawa. The ceramics used for plating some dishes, meanwhile, are made personally for Wakuda and the restaurant by another friend Mitsuo Shoji.
Tetsuya’s has received a number of awards. The restaurant was named "Restaurant of the Year" in The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide, 2008 edition. Tetsuya’s has also ranked within the top five of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2005, 2006 and 2007. In the 2010 list, Tetsuya's is ranked 38th. Tetsuya has won an award every year from 1992-2009.
- "Tetsuya Wakuda Celebrety Chef".
- "Triumph of taste". The Age. 13 APril 2004.
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- Tetsuya's Tetsuya's Restaurant website