Zaiyu Hasegawa
Zaiyu Hasegawa Contributed

World leading chef's pilgrimage to Gympie Region

HE RUNS one of the 50 best restaurants in the world and one which has been acknowledged as Japan's best - and he is headed for Gympie Region, just for the fun of it.

While Zaiyu Hasegawa is in Australia for The Curated Plate food festival (at venues around the Gympie and Sunshine Coast Regions), he will be headed for the Mary Valley later this week to do something he is deeply interested in, something special - Australian fresh water fishing.

Mr Hasegawa will bring with him the open mind and sense of fun that have added to the uniqueness of his Den restaurant in Tokyo, where traditional Japanese perfectionism mixes with good humour and wide ranging influences.

Den even includes on its menu a dish called Den-tucky Fried Chicken, a sure sign that even an internationally acknowledged master can have a laugh at his own expense.

His lack of interest in following too many rules, combined with a sense of culinary adventure, might have interfered with his early cooking instruction, had his ideas not tended to turn out extremely well.

"When cooking in Home Economics, you always have to follow precisely what it says in the text book,” he told one interviewer recently.

But copying the inventions of others does not seem to have been his style.

"I was always thinking how this fish would taste better if I cooked it differently instead of sauteing it, for example,” he said.

"So I never cooked as I was instructed.”

He says he started his own restaurant at 29, because "I wanted to do what I want.”

And that has meant developing a whole new and constantly evolving Japanese cuisine, one that borrows from the best parts of many cultures to bring people together over a good meal.

His secret of success seems to be a restlessness that drives him to learn and create and be himself.

And there is also the inspirataion of his mother, who still cooks for him sometimes.

"The taste of home cooking is different for everyone, but yet it is all prepared with the same wish, which is to make others happy.

"Homemade food is food prepared while thinking about others being happy,” he said.

But what makes Mr Hasegawa happy and what does he want to do while he is in Australia?

He wants to go fishing. He wants to catch a particular kind of Australian fish, bass. And he wants to catch those fish right here in the Gympie Region.

The Gympie Times will be tagging along while one of the world's best chefs chases some of the world's best fresh water fishing, right here.

The new Curated Plate festival will feature a range of international guest chefs, including Mr Hasegawa and nine other celebrity guests, along with talented local chefs, foragers and food producers from the near-Gympie region.

The new festival runs all through this week.

Gympie Region venues include Cooloola Berries at Wolvi, the Rattler in Gympie and even lunch on top of Mt Goomboorian, courtesy of Rainbow Beach Horse Rides.