Yesterday, we heard from Chef Rick "Koji" Hashimoto of Hana Japanese Eatery's sushi bar. Today, we catch up with Chef Kazuto "Kaz" Kishino in the kitchen.
Born, raised, educated and trained in Japan, Chef Kazuto "Kaz" Kishino, the man running the behind-the-scenes show in the kitchen of Hana Japanese Eatery, is about as old school as it gets in Japanese cooking.
Kaz's formal training paved the way for the family restaurant to take off, teaching his stepson Koji all styles of Japanese cuisine: sushi, teppanyaki, and fine dining.
Hana is a collective family affair: Kaz and Kinue Hashimoto (mother) are in the kitchen, Koji is behind the sushi bar, Lori Hashimoto (daughter) and Lynn Becker (no relation) hold down the front of the house; unless it's really crazy, and Lori jumps on the sushi bar with Koji.
Kaz is a man of few words and little English, but Lori plays translator to unveil the secrets to making high-brow tempura, the reason Kaz loves his knives, and his movie-star aspirations and kitchen-cupboard realities.
Reader's note: Kaz's short and sweet responses are in normal text, while Hashimoto's explanations/translations are in italics.
What's your favorite dish to make? Tempura. It's beautiful to make. It's not just about putting items into the batter, but there's a technique to stirring the items in the batter. You're basically decorating it and creating i. The more high-tone the tempura, meaning the more fingers you can get on it, the better you are at it. It's really difficult. Every time it comes out he basically stares at it until it reaches the table; it's like his baby.
What's the first thing you ever made? Miso soup with my mom. It was so good.
Favorite kitchen tool? My knives. He loves his knives. They're Japanese knives, and Kaz stone-sharpens every single one. My mom and him kid that if they ever get divorced, the only thing they're going to fight over is the knives. When you grow up in a Japanese household, you know that's the one thing you don't touch: The knives.
What's always in the kitchen at home? The essential Japanese seasonings: Soy sauce, mirin, sake, bonito, and vinegar. Olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Best recipe experiment? Probably scallop edamame [laughing]. It's scallops mixed with edamame beans into a fritter dipped in tempura batter. It's one of the things he just put together on the fly, but it's such a great seller we won't take it off the specials' board. He's laughing right now, because for his professional level of cooking, he thinks it's such a low-class thing. Japanese cooking is all about the level: you have street food, family food, dining food, formal dining food and then kaiseki, which is the highest. And that's how the Japanese chefs really critique themselves, by what level their food is.
Favorite Food Network show? Iron Chef, by far.
Anything you would never cook with? Catfish. Why? It's stinky. He doesn't like bottom-feeder fish. It tastes sour and salty.
What did you want to be growing up? A movie star. A samurai.
Hardest kitchen lesson? Being by the stove is very hot, too hot. It's not fun to be by the heat.
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Any major kitchen accidents? Cutting my fingers and burning my arms with the fryer [showing his scars to prove it].
What's the secret to Japanese cooking? Good preparation, cooking temperature, and decoration. Basically he's saying that Japanese food is an art, and if you have all the things prepared properly, that allows the food to not only look good but taste good too.
Best advice you ever got? Always taste your food before serving it. There's not a dish that goes out that he doesn't taste first.
This is part two of our Chef Chat with Hana Japanese Eatery. Check out part one with Chef Koji for more about sushi, school lunched and super-sized sushi boats, and check back tomorrow for two fresh fish recipes: one raw, one steamed.