Interview with Chef Takashi Ito

Chef’s Table is a series of Interviews with some of the top chefs in North America.

Chef Takashi Ito

I talked with Takashi before dining at Aura Restaurant last month in Victoria.

Born in Sendai, Japan, Takashi Ito was halfway through Law School at Tohoku Gakuin University, when he reawakened his passion for all-things-culinary by enrolling in classes at the local cooking school. After Ito graduated in 1980 with a degree in law and a diploma in cooking, Ito and his wife, Chika, packed their bags and headed for Canada with hopes that Takashi Ito would achieve his dream of becoming a chef.    While working in Ottawa at the Radisson Plaza, Ito mentored under Frits Marechal – a passionate chef who  emphasized the importance of developing strong leadership skills in order to lead a solid culinary team. It was during this time that Chef Ito also discovered his passion for ice carving, a technique popular in Japan that hadn’t yet hit the North American marketplace.

In 1993, Chef Ito made the move to Calgary’s The Fairmont Palliser and began developing a unique style of Japanese-influenced cuisine. Chef Ito relocated to Victoria in 2004 to lead the kitchen at The Fairmont Empress. In 2011, Chef Ito packed up his knives and headed down the block to become the Executive Chef at AURA, the waterfront restaurant and patio that is known across the country for its playful, locally-sourced dishes and the Inn at Laurel Point.

What is your favourite cuisine?

  • To eat, it would be Italian, Spanish, Japanese and I also love bread.
  • To cook, it would be Seafood.

What challenges you as a chef?

It’s a good challenge, I am happy that I am surrounded with good people. How much I can push myself as well as my colleagues to do better and have fun.

What is your favourite dish to make (personally)?

  • Risotto
  • Tuna

Where is your favourite food city?

Paris, France

Where was your most recent culinary trip?

Russia

What other escapes do you enjoy?

  • Golf
  • Walking

When did you start doing Ice Carving?

While I was in Japan, I took a crash course for a few days. When I lived in Ottawa, there was Winterfest and I did big ice carvings. Then I started competing and did competitions around the world, I have competed in the USA, Canada, Japan, China, Russia and Switzerland. It takes 2-1/2 to 3 days to create a large ice sculpture and it must be frozen.

How long was the Ice Carving Competition in Russia?

6 days

What are some of the notable Ice Carving Awards that you have received?

Chef Ito’s awards and accolades:

  • 2010 4th place, Salekhard International Ice Sculptor Competition, Russia
  • 2008 1st place, High on Ice, International Ice Carving Competition, Fort St. John, BC
  • 2008 1st place, Ice Alaska, International Competition, Fairbanks, Alaska
  • 2007  3rd place, Ice Carving World Championship, Harbin, China
  • 2006 1st place, Winterlude, International Ice Carving Competition, Ottawa, Ontario
  • 2005 1st place, Winterlude, International Ice Carving Competition, Ottawa, Ontario
  • 2004 1st place, Ice Magic International Ice Carving Competition, Lake Louise, Alberta
  • 2004:  won first place in the Ice Magic International Ice Carving Competition in Lake Louise, Alberta
  • 2003:  won first place in the Ice Magic International Ice Carving Competition in Lake Louise, Alberta
  • 2002:  requested by Prime Minister Jean Chretien to cook for the G8 Leader’s Summit in Kananaskis
  • 2002:  participated in the Utah Olympics’ ice carving competition
  • 2001: won first place in the Ice Magic International Ice Carving Competition in Lake Louise, Alberta
  • More…1998:  participated in the Nagano Olympics’ Karulzawa ice sculpture competition
  • 1996:  appeared as a guest chef for a Canadian food fair in Japan
  • 1993:  earned a gold medal at Grand Salon Culinaire in Vancouver
  • 1993:  won first place in the Ice Magic International Ice Carving Competition in Lake Louise, Alberta
  • 1992:  earned silver and bronze medals in the World Culinary Olympics
  • 1992:  earned three gold medals in the Culinary Art Show in Ottawa
  •  1992: earned a gold medal in the Metro Toronto Culinary Show
  • 1990:  given the Culinary Master Award in PEI

In your role of Executive Chef at the Inn at Laurel Point, what do you do?

I oversee Aura Restaurant, room service as well as Banquets.

Who does the baking in the hotel?

I do my own baking in the hotel, from breads to buns as well as brioche.

What’s on the horizon for you in the coming year?

I hope people will come and taste my dishes, by the season. I love how the seasons change here and my menus are focussed around the seasons.

Stay tuned for the next chef in the Chefs Table series.


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