Chef Kei Kobayashi and Chef Mitsuyoshi SatoChef Kei Kobayashi and Chef Mitsuyoshi Sato



Cuisine terroir created by chef Kei Kobayashi and Japanese sweets shop Toraya


What is the correct answer for the restaurant that Gotemba “Maison KEI” is aiming for, which is entering its second autumn?

Chef Kei Kobayashi (left) and Mitsunori Sato, chef at Maison KEI. Sato served as Kobayashi's right-hand man for a long time at the restaurant in Paris before becoming the chef at this restaurant.

``Maison KEI'' in Gotemba is a collaboration between ``Restaurant KEI,'' a three-star restaurant in Paris led by chef Kei Kobayashi, and ``Toraya,'' a long-established Japanese sweets shop with a history of 500 years. When talking about ``Maison KEI,'' the topic always revolves around Kei Kobayashi, the glamorous star chef, but this is due to the fact that Kobayashi, the person in question, has undying respect for ``Toraya.'' I think this is the backbone of the philosophy that supports the restaurant.



Since opening on January 2021, 1, "Maison KEI" has continued to be difficult to make reservations despite the coronavirus pandemic, but this summer, when I visited for the first time in a while, I was again enveloped in warm emotion. During this 30-month period, there were many twists and turns and new discoveries, but what the chefs, staff, and Toraya were thinking and focusing on during the years it took to open this restaurant. I listened to Tanaka's story.

Says there is no meaning in being the first Japanese person
What Chef Kei Kobayashi is aiming for


I still remember the first day I spoke with Chef Kobayashi, how many years ago? It happened when we met for dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Shirokane, introduced by an acquaintance. I had a vague feeling that this blond, sharp-eyed chef had captivated so many gourmets and journalists, and that in the near future he would reach not just three stars, but even more remote peaks. is.



If I recall correctly, the discussion was about ``Is there an absolute standard for taste?'' I said, "I don't think so," and said that the reason was that people find familiar foods delicious, and that feeling can vary depending on their tastes and environment. The chef replied, ``I have the exact opposite opinion.'' His mentors, masters such as Alain Ducasse and Joel Robuchon, opened their own restaurants in countries with different food cultures, and they achieved a certain degree of success. He gave examples of what was included. In short, he believed that truly delicious food exists without being bound by time, food culture, or individual differences.



On top of that, the chef declared that he was not aiming for the position of being the first Japanese ◯◯◯. ``I will aim for the top as Kei Kobayashi. I will climb Mount Everest instead of Mt. Fuji. I will become a diamond instead of a jewel,'' he said matter-of-factly.



"Maison KEI" overlooks Mt. Fuji. Like Toraya Toraya in Akasaka, the orderly beauty created by architect Hiroshi Naito leaves a lasting impression. "Maison KEI" overlooks Mt. Fuji. Like Toraya Toraya in Akasaka, the orderly beauty created by architect Hiroshi Naito leaves a lasting impression.

"Maison KEI" overlooks Mt. Fuji. Like ``Toraya'' in Akasaka, the orderly beauty created by architect Hiroshi Naito leaves a lasting impression.


It may be too late now, but I would like to briefly write about Kei Kobayashi. He was born in Nagano Prefecture and trained at restaurants in Nagano and Tokyo before moving to France. He worked at Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée for seven years, and the last five years as a sous chef before going independent and opening Restaurant KEI in 5. The restaurant gained stars one by one, and in 2011, it became a hot topic both domestically and internationally when it became the first Asian restaurant to receive three stars in France's Michelin Guide.



However, behind the scenes, another big project was underway for many years. That is ``Maison KEI,'' a French restaurant built in Gotemba in collaboration with ``Toraya.'' Kobayashi has a long relationship with Toraya, dating back to when Mitsuharu Kurokawa, who was appointed as the 2020th representative director and president of Toraya in the summer of 18, worked at the Toraya Paris store in 2010. It is said that there has been heated discussion between the two sides about how to take the next step toward the future.


Toraya and Gotemba have an inseparable relationship
Creating a new food scene


The difference between Gotemba's ``Maison KEI'' and Paris' ``Restaurant KEI'' is that this is a restaurant that perfectly expresses Gotemba's terroir. Gotemba is home to Toraya's main factory for manufacturing bean paste and yokan, which was opened in 1978, and since then, the company has been deeply attached to this area, as they have opened stores in new formats. For Kobayashi, when he was considering creating a restaurant that would not be possible in Paris, he settled on the idea of ​​serving dishes that value the terroir, with an eye toward regional revitalization in Japanese regional cities. That's what it means.



Because of this background, each dish served at Maison KEI is created using proven techniques that must have been repeated thousands of times to fully express the gentle and powerful terroir of the land. Adding to this is the flavor of the bean paste, which Toraya is proud of. The dessert ``Vacherin'', which is popular as a specialty of ``Restaurant KEI'' in Paris, has changed its shape and is now available at the Gotemba store, but what is more different than it looks is that ``bean paste'' is used. Toraya's confectionery craftsman entered the kitchen of the Paris store and spent over a year teaching the staff at the Gotemba store, including chef Mitsunori Sato, the essence of Toraya's bean paste. It is said that he has done so.


"Jardin de Regime Croquin (Garden Style Seasonal Salad)" "Jardin de Regime Croquin (Garden Style Seasonal Salad)"

The specialty ``Jardin de l'Egume Croquin (Garden-style seasonal salad)'' uses 30 types of Shizuoka vegetables. Mix thoroughly and enjoy the fluffy lemon bubbles and the three types of sauces.

Three stars is enough.
The meaning of changing styles for each concept


Even after it opened, Kobayashi has often visited the store in Gotemba. Of course, due to the coronavirus pandemic, he also runs a store in Paris. However, just like last year, he flew back to Japan for his summer vacation this year, reevaluating his kitchen in Gotemba, and continuing to interact with nearby producers. In the meantime, he is also discussing the future of his business, and I am amazed at how much vision this person has.



“I told the staff that we are a team, that we aim to be a relaxed Japanese restaurant rather than a kaiseki restaurant, and that even if we make some mistakes or things are rough, we will not be afraid of it. I tell them to try to be a restaurant.Since the restaurant name includes KEI, attention is drawn to the presence of stars and the quality of the restaurant as a French restaurant, but the three stars given to restaurants in Paris are sufficient. It's not that I want to increase the number of restaurants, but that I want to create a new world of food by having different concepts and different styles.'' (Chef Kobayashi)

With Mr. Naoki Maeda of Yaizu's fresh fish shop "Sasue Maeda Uoten". With Mr. Naoki Maeda of Yaizu's fresh fish shop "Sasue Maeda Uoten".

We continue to have strong relationships with food producers in Shizuoka. The rule for both Maison KEI and Toraya is to use the best locally available ingredients. With Mr. Naoki Maeda of Yaizu's fresh fish shop "Sasue Maeda Uoten".

Continuing to do work that we can be proud of for 100 years from now is the key to
Means to achieve food sustainability



This time, it was a long time since Chef Kobayashi returned to Japan, but he made a triumphant return from Paris, accompanied by pastry chef Toshiya Takatsuka and many other staff members. While receiving the service, I realized that I had no idea who was the Paris staff member and who was the Gotemba staff member. In short, I was impressed by the way the entire team worked diligently and happily under Kobayashi's direction. I heard that Kobayashi always participates in online interviews when hiring Gotemba staff, and even during those interviews, they spend quite a long time talking to each other.



When I heard this story, I thought it had something in common with Toraya. Although it is a long-established company that has been around since the late Muromachi period, there is an unwritten rule that only one person from the founding family is involved in management per generation. No relatives are employed by the company. Therefore, we believe that all employees should inherit the Toraya philosophy, and we have a serious and pure philosophy when it comes to the quality of ingredients used in confectionery and the development of human resources. Immediate profits are of course important for a company, but what is more important than that is ``doing work that we can be proud of for 1 years from now.'' I have heard many Toraya employees say. Ta.



Specialty dessert "Vacherin". Specialty dessert "Vacherin".

Specialty dessert "Vacherin". Because seasonal ingredients are used, the colors and flavors change depending on the season. Complete the filling with the sauce in front of the guests.

"Maison KEI" is a new restaurant that is only in its second autumn season. However, the amount of time and effort put into it is too deep to call it a ``newly opened store.'' This is where the virtues that Toraya has always cherished and the pride that Kei Kobayashi continues to uphold as a chef resides together.



For the past two and a half years, we've been through a time we've never experienced before, not being able to go to restaurants freely. As a result, I realized that enjoying cooking at home and quietly drinking wine with loved ones is surprisingly good. However, on the other hand, there are probably many people who feel a trembling feeling when visiting a restaurant for the first time in a while. An extraordinary space, beautiful cuisine made with professional techniques, and a variety of attentive services. And above all, the preciousness of the time you can share with someone.



The message ``Maison KEI'' sends is warm, delicious, and talkative. If you want to experience the excitement of a restaurant for the first time in a while during the fruitful autumn season, we recommend heading to Gotemba. The new cuisine terroir created here is sure to make you realize many things.


Maison Kay Maison Kay

Maison KEI

527-1 Higashiyama, Gotemba City, Shizuoka Prefecture
Lunch 11:30~ Dinner 17:30~
Closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays
Lunch (¥4,800, ¥9,000, ¥12,000) Dinner (¥5,500, ¥9,000, ¥12,000)
Separate drinks and service charge

Text by Mayuko Yamaguchi

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