If Ralph Frehner hadn't been a chef, he probably
would have been a daredevil. The Swiss-born executive chef
of the Park Hyatt Tokyo is currently into whitewater rafting,
jet-skiing, parachuting and go-carting. He is also a ski patrol
member, dive master, painter and art collector. Frehner began
his culinary career as an apprentice with the Restaurant Giardino
in Brissago, then worked his way up with stints at La Tour
d'Argent in Paris and Grand Hyatts in Melbourne, Seoul
and Bangkok before arriving in Tokyo in April.
How did you get into all these sports?
I used to work on a private yacht for a very rich family.
The yacht was only used for eight weeks a year and the rest
of the time we cruised throughout the world and got exposed
to many different kinds of sports.
of Park Hyatt Tokyo
What's your food philosophy?
Fresh, fresh and fresh. There has to be a very fine balance
between flavor, combination, texture and temperature. The
most important aspect is the product itself; it has to be
the best available at any time.
How far will you go for the best ingredients?
In 1997, I traveled to Russia and Romania in search of the
finest caviar. After inspecting the process from the
fishing boat to the final lab inspection, I crafted my own
recipe for the caviar to include sea salt from the south of
France and spring water from the Swiss Alps.
Do you eat in the hotel every day?
Nearly every day. It is important to experience the food that
my chefs produce daily. I eat in the staff canteen, too.
What do you eat at home?
Lots of Thai food. Guess where my wife is from? At home it
has to be simple country-style food.
You wouldn't be caught dead at McDonald's,
You won't see me in those places, that's for
sure. I hate that kind of food.
Are you a better cook than your mother?
We don't compete with each other. I left home when
I was 15. My mother has a very good hand when it comes to
traditional Swiss food; heavy but good. She has never come
to visit me and tried my food. She refuses to get on a plane.
House of a rising son
First-time director Vadim Perelman
scores with the drama House of Sand and Fog
By Chris Betros
Very few filmmakers are fortunate enough to be screenwriter,
producer and director on their debut-which is why Ukrainian-born
Vadim Perelman, 40, is reveling in the acclaim that his first
film House of Sand and Fog is attracting around the world.
"What makes me really happy is that I can reach many
people with a film that means something to me," he
Based on the novel by Andre Dubus, House of Sand and Fog tells
the story of Iranian immigrant Massoud Behrani (Ben Kingsley),
a former colonel in the shah's army who has fled to
the US with his family. While pretending to lead a life of
affluence, the colonel works at two menial jobs day and night
to make ends meet. One day, he sees a chance to make some
money in the auction of a semi-isolated coastal bungalow being
sold for back taxes. His plan is to renovate it and then sell
it for up to four times what he paid for it. However, due
to a bureaucratic snafu, the house has been improperly seized
from its rightful owner (Jennifer Connelly). She wants it
back, but the stiff-necked colonel believes he is in the right,
setting off a legal and ethical battle.
"This film works on many levels. Different people
see different things in this film, even in Japan which doesn't
have much of a history of immigration," says Perelman
who has been to about 20 countries promoting the film. Wherever
he goes, he gets asked the same question: Does the movie parallel
his own experiences as an immigrant? "It's boring
to talk about my life," he says with a laugh. Still,
his story is worthy of a movie in itself. Born in Kiev, he
left Ukraine with his mother in 1977 for Italy, where he was
a street urchin for awhile. The pair then went to Canada,
but after his mother remarried, Perelman quarreled with his
stepfather and left home at 16. He got into scrapes with the
law and was threatened with deportation. He studied filmmaking
and started making TV commercials in LA. When he read Dubus'
book at Rome airport four years ago, Perelman knew he had
to make it into a film and persuaded Dreamworks to let him
"I was very lucky that Andre trusted me with his book
and I wanted to pay back that trust. I feel like it is my
adopted child," Perelman says. For his cast, Kingsley,
who received an Oscar nomination, and Connelly were his first
choices, as was Iranian actress Shohreh Aghdashloo (also an
Oscar nominee). "Don't forget the house itself
and the fog. They are equally important characters,"
adds Perelman. "As a result, I think we ended up with
a pretty good emotional thriller."
credit: Chris Betros
Tokyo's celebrity crowd turns out for
the weekly party at Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill
from top left: Party girls Reika Nakamura and Mamiko Otsubo,Party
Producer Kevin Ochi (center), with Nanae and Yumiko, DJ
Flourish, WP Consulting Manager Michael Dargin with Shiodome
branch chef Yusuke Moriya