Nobu Matsuhisa.

Nobu Matsuhisa.
Photo provided

Nobu Matsuhisa: "Happy guests are more important than Michelin stars"

Nobu Matsuhisa has built up a global empire with his restaurants "Nobu" and "Matsushisa". In this interview, he shares his secret for outstanding sushi, talks about the Kardashians who almost live in one of his restaurants and reveals which food trend he is longing for.

Nobu Matsuhisa is a real gastro king. Whether Beverly Hills, Dubai, Hong Kong or Mexico City – his restaurants "Nobu" or "Matsuhisa" can be found all over the world, without having the image of a chain. He became famous by combining Japanese cuisine with Peruvian cuisine and after the actor Robert De Niro became his business partner. His restaurants are frequented en masse by stars, there are rap songs about Nobu and rumors that his menus are sometimes delivered by private jet. This is how the Nobu empire came into being. Today, Matsuhisa's fortune is estimated at 220 million dollars. You can also taste his dishes in Germany, at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Munich. In February, the chef came to the Shibuya Crossing Party in person and even answered a few questions in between.

Mr. Matsuhisa, do the German guests differ from those in your other restaurants?

Nobu Matsuhisa: No, there are no major differences between the guests. People who come to our restaurant in Munich are interested in our food – just like our guests in other restaurants around the world.

Which German dish do you like best?

I had veal sausage with spicy mustard this morning, which I liked.

Do you cook differently in Germany than in Dubai, for example?

No, our signature dishes like miso-glazed black cod are the same all over the world, but of course we try to use as many local products as possible.

Sushi must be made with heart

Apart from fresh fish, what are the most important components of sushi?

The sushi rice, of course. But sushi is really about the details. Good fish, good rice, good wasabi, there's no getting around it, but it's also about the right cut of fish. And sushi has to be made with heart.

In Germany, we often hear that real wasabi is hard to come by. Is the green wasabi from the tube really that bad?

Let me put it this way: we can't get fresh wasabi in Munich, we have it specially delivered from Japan.

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What is the secret of your restaurants' success?

The teams are the secret. And good service. And when you run restaurants all over the world, partners are of course also very important. You have to understand each other.

Do you personally visit every location before a new opening?

Yes, of course. But my team then does the necessary background research and looks at where we can source the freshest ingredients.

I want the guests to enjoy coming, I like it when they smile and enjoy their meal, that's more important than Michelin stars.

Do you actually know how many restaurants you own?

Um, we have (thinks for a moment) – Nobu and Matsuhisa together – more than 65 restaurants.

Do you know the number of Michelin stars your restaurants have?

I don't know, but I don't look for Michelin-starred restaurants either. I want the guests to enjoy coming, I like it when they smile and enjoy their meal, that's more important than Michelin stars.

What is your favorite restaurant? Which one do they visit the most?

I opened my first restaurant in Los Angeles in 1987, I love them all, but you have a special relationship with the first one.

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Not only you. Paparazzi are constantly at the door to take pictures of prominent guests. The Kardashians almost seem to live there. Did you invent the "celebrity restaurant" concept?

No, I didn't make that up, because the stars chose my restaurant. They trust our cuisine, quality and hospitality.

Her business partner is the actor Robert De Niro. Can you tell us his favorite dish?

He likes all dishes! Except for oysters.

Maybe one day we'll get back to the essentials in the kitchen. Simple cooking. I like that.

What is the best career tip for young chefs that you wish you had gotten earlier?

Chefs have to gain a lot of experience to be successful. Start, try out the best, make mistakes. Be patient and passionate. And never give up.

Do you have any idea which food trend is coming next?

There are many fashions in the kitchen, because someone is always inventing a new style. But my approach to cooking is pretty simple. Maybe one day we'll go back to the essentials in the kitchen. Simple cooking. I like that.

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Laura Ewert
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