Roy Kilner

Roy KilnerOccupation:
Chef/Izakaya Manager

Time in Japan:
8 years

Where are you from?

Nottingham in Great Britain, of Robin Hood fame.

What brought you to Japan?
My wife is Japanese. We met and married in London and then moved here. Before meeting my wife I knew nothing about Japan.

What did you do when you first arrived?
Well, I studied cooking and hotel services in France for six months. My first job in Japan was at a restaurant in Nihonbashi, making French or European cuisine. When I came here my wife introduced me to the manager of a hotel and he fixed me with a job. I was very lucky.

How did you get involved in Japanese cuisine?
I felt that it would be pointless to live in Japan and not learn anything about the food. So I just went and did it. I watched the other chefs, saw what they did, tasted their food, and just did the same thing. No training. Cooking is cooking. Once you' got the basics, everything else just comes with it.

What's the most difficult thing about cooking Japanese food?
The nimono (simmered foods). In European cooking we don't use sugar. When you make nimono, you have to add sake, shoyu, mirin. The balance is difficult.

How did you become involved in the izakaya Obanzaiya?
The restaurant in Nihonbashi where I was working wasn't my style and wasn't very exciting. There was an advertisement in a magazine recruiting a chef for an izakaya. I thought I'd give it a try because I really like izakaya. And now I'm the manager!

What's Obanzaiya's specialty?
Jizake - local sake brewed in a specific area. The menu is washoku (Japanese food) and it's basically food that goes well with sake. I do have English beer, Newcastle Brown to be specific, which is pretty rare for an izakaya, but I need it. Although I love Japan I miss English beer. I like sake too, but I can't drink very much.

What's the restaurant's concept?
Relax. Everyone works hard. You come here, sit down, have some sake and just take it easy.

What do you try to express through your cooking?
It's all at-home style and very simple. Everything is seasonal and the menu changes daily.

What were some of the difficult tasks you faced as a manager of a Japanese izakaya?
Everything. Especially writing the menus. I can't write kanji so that part was difficult. But I've been very lucky because I had no people problems.

What was your strangest experience in Japan?
I got lost outside Tokyo station when I first came. I couldn't speak Japanese and I had no idea where I was. I went to the police box and asked "where am I?" and the police escorted me back to the station. It's not that weird but I was surprised how nice the police were.

What do you like best about Japan?
Izakaya. I just like the friendly, relaxed atmosphere. My favorite izakaya food is nizakana (simmered fish).

What's your recipe for a happy life in Japan?
Don't worry, just take it easy.

Contact Roy at Obanzaiya, 03-3709-9174.

Roy Kilner spoke with Maki Nibayashi.

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