The welcome doesn’t get warmer than the wide smile and reverent nod of Chef Hideki Hayashi and the unpretentious genius of his restaurant Zen Japanese. A cheap and cheerful culinary institution that he gladly inherited from his best friend, Hideki brings 32 years of master-cheffery and authentic Japanese culture to Subi.
Hailing from the island Kyushu off the coast of Japan, Hideki began his career at the ripe age of six under the tutelage of his father, a celebrated chef with a flair for seafood. What began as a holiday in pursuit of Western Australia’s fabled windsurfing conditions, Hideki soon found himself feeling right at home in the lively and leafy 6008. A true blue Japanese-Australian, Hideki loves nothing more than fish and chips on a balmy summers’ night and meeting friends for beers at the Subi Hotel. For all his Australianisms, the instantly endearing Subi sensei still practises the rituals of his spiritual homeland, graciously offering guests piping hot genmaicha tea the moment they cross the Zen threshold preferring to treat his loyal league of customers like “precious friends” who are dining at his home – and by all reports, the feeling’s mutual.
WHAT’S THE BEST LIFE LESSON YOU LEARNED FROM YOUR TIME AT COOKING SCHOOL IN JAPAN?
I didn’t go to a cooking school. My late dad was a chef at one of the most famous Japanese Restaurants in Tokyo. When I finished high school and was going to a cooking school, he advised me to do apprenticeship. Those days in Japan, apprenticeship means working in the kitchen doing less important jobs and not to be taught how to cook for years. He said to me that he trained a number of young people who was out of cooking school and had found that they had some knowledge but not many skills, still they are too proud of themselves to be trained by him. He said that the knowledge is important, but I might be able to learn it through the actual cooking. Cook/Chef has to have an exceptional skill to be good at cooking. You may call him the old style, but I am so proud of my dad. He was my hero.
My life lesson is that the cooking is for someone you cook dishes for. Not for me. Cooking makes people happy, impressed and excited, and make us to communicate. When I was 7 or 8 years old, I took some friends home from school on one Saturday (there were classes for half day on every Saturday. Those days, there’s no lunchtime. We came home hungry), then dad cooked some dishes and served us. My friends were so impressed and excited to eat his cooking. My dad was not a good conversation holder, but it was his way to welcome my friends and told them he liked them.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO IN YOUR FREE TIME?
Riding a motor bike. I used to do wind surfing but since I saw a huge shark (about 2.5 m one) in Swan River between Nedlands and Claremont while I was on wind surf a couple of months ago, I stop doing it at the moment. It was so close and so scary.
WHAT IS THE SECRET TO MAKING GREAT SUSHI?
Great ingredients and its conditions (fresh fish shouldn’t be too fresh. Same as meat, it needs to be aged). Then love to the customer, then skill.
PROUDEST MOMENT IN YOUR WORK LIFE?
When the customers go “wow” the moment the dishes I cook, and present are served to the table. And when customers come to the kitchen counter when they leave and tell me “Thank you. The food was very superb”. Those are the moment I proud of myself and motivate me to keep doing what I am doing.
BEST COFFEE IN SUBIACO?
1982 Food & Coffee
WHAT’S YOUR LIFE MOTTO?
Simple Life – no clinging, no complications, no worries.
- Article by Tatiana Farley
- Photograph by Robert Firth