Exclusive Interview: Coleman Griffin
Many foreign chefs are pursuing their careers in Japan. Tokyo has twice as many Michelin-starred restaurants as Paris, and for foreign chefs, Tokyo's culinary scene, which is more dynamic and innovative than anywhere else in the world, makes it an attractive destination and a worthwhile challenge. We talked to young chef Coleman Griffin, who came to Japan in pursuit of that kind of great ambition.
Can you briefly introduce yourself?
I am a Los Angeles native, and started cooking in high school at Melisse restaurant in Santa Monica. When I was eighteen, I moved to Napa Valley to attend the Culinary Institute of America. Being in Napa Valley, you have the opportunity to experience wine and food culture at a high level. Learning about quality produce and a seasonal approach was truly a transformative experience. Post graduation I spent 8 years working in the Northern California region at acclaimed establishments The Restaurant at Meadowood and Benu.
Which restaurant did you start to work in Japan?
I came to Tokyo to work at restaurant INUA; now temporarily closed due to COVID-19.
Can you let us know more about INUA and your experience there?
The bounty of nature provided the inspiration for everything that we did at INUA. Because of the defined seasons in Japan, we had access to an exciting range of produce throughout the year. Products came from the mountainous regions of the North and subtropical regions of the South; and everywhere in between. Working with Chef Thomas Frebel exposed me to a new and unique of cooking, I am very thankful for the time I spent there.
What inspired you most working in Tokyo?
I think the attention to detail and dedication to craft is unparalleled. Seeing this in person is truly inspiring.
What kind of dishes do you want to explore and create in future?
Since INUA’s closure, I have started a popup series exploring Japanese ingredients in a fun and inventive way. It’s called Natoma and will be my main focus now.
What does “omotenashi” (hospitality) mean to you?
Ometenashi is an opportunity to experience something special. Whether it be sadou, kaiseki ryori or omiokuri. These types of experiences are unique to Japan and are the essence of omotenashi.
Please tell us about your future plans and goals.
My current popup project Natoma will be appearing in Tokyo in various locations. I’ll be announcing the events online. My goal is to learn more about Japanese products and give guests a unique dining experience.
Cured aji, cucumber with a sauce of green pepper and myoga
Maitake stuffed omelette, mitsuba and chicken jus
Steamed kamasu, braised taro, hidden beneath roasted lettuce
A salad of tomato, dried shellfish, shungiku, and chirimen sansho