With love to Fukuoka: Chef Tsuyoshi Fukuyama's trajectory (Part 1)


Starting from Fukuoka La Maison de la Nature Gou Chef Tsuyoshi Fukuyama Interlude to the leap forward

6 pm. A light went on at the entrance of a certain restaurant in Nishinakasu, Fukuoka. Many guests will gather here again today, and it will be a hectic night. That restaurant is La Maison de la Nature Gou, led by chef Tsuyoshi Fukuyama. When I heard that the store would be closing on October 20th, the 10th anniversary of its opening, I flew to Fukuoka. In order to listen to Chef Fukuyama's words during the interlude between the 17 years he spent at his restaurant in Nishinakasu and the future.





A light lights up in a corner of Nishinakasu
On the last night to welcome guests


Ahead of October 20th, the 10th anniversary, regular customers continue to visit Fukuyama every day to mourn its legacy and celebrate Fukuyama's future. A few days before that, I was able to sit down at a table at La Maison de la Nature Gou. To celebrate the 17th anniversary, signature dishes will be served one after another. Fully booked today as well. In order to respond to the requests of the guests who have been coming to the restaurant for 20 years, he manages to run the restaurant twice. This has been going on since summer.


``La Maison de la Nature Gou'' is located in Nishinakasu, the downtown area of ​​Fukuoka. Nakasu is Fukuoka, Kyushu's representative downtown and night town. However, the scenery in Nishinakasu is a little different. As you walk around, you'll find many Japanese restaurants, restaurants, and bars, all of which have stylish layouts that make you want to stop and take a look inside.


``It would be easier to describe the area as a place where there have always been many Japanese-style restaurants and restaurants, where you can eat in Nishi-Nakasu and then go to Nakasu to have fun.Recently, there have been more fashionable restaurants than before,'' Fukuyama explains. He did it for me.


"La Maison de la Nature Gou" is located in a slightly hidden alley in Nishinakasu. If you do find it, you'll find Fukuyama's big-hearted smile and food in a restaurant that's like a secret base that you don't want to tell anyone about for the past 20 years. I think I can see why it's packed every day.

Gou's store Gou's store

The store has a relaxed atmosphere where you don't have to worry about being nervous.

The day I jumped into the world of food
The feeling that Fukuoka nurtured me


Let's take a look back at Fukuyama's path to opening his own store here in Nishinakasu. I have been interested in cooking since I was a child, and naturally I aspired to become a chef. He began training at a French restaurant just before his third year of high school, and after graduating, he took his first step as a chef. His first job was at a high-end French restaurant called ``Ile de France,'' where he thoroughly learned French cooking. At the age of 3, he became a chef at the wine bar Mercury Cafe. The experience here became important for Fukuyama's cuisine.


``Since it's a wine bar, there are customers who simply enjoy the wine and food, and there are customers who are already ready by the time they come to the bar.We ask customers who are drunk to make us something that isn't on the menu.'' I was often asked for champon.Thanks to that, I learned a lot."


But I learned something from that. ``Because we had an open kitchen, we were able to get close to the customers and observe whether they were really enjoying the food.There were times when we struggled with unreasonable requests, but we hope to continue operating the restaurant for a long time. I realized that we need something simple, something that people don't get tired of eating, and something that Japanese people can easily eat."


On October 2002, 10, we opened "La Maison de la Nature Gou" in Nishinakasu. The small kitchen, counter and table seating, and Chef Fukuyama's cooking and cheerful hospitality create a cozy atmosphere, making the restaurant popular from the beginning.

Tsuyoshi Fukuyama Tsuyoshi Fukuyama

The counter seats are special seats where you can watch Chef Fukuyama's every move.

The beautiful, jewelry-like plates with grape motifs can be finished right in front of the guests, creating a fun presentation effect. The beautiful, jewelry-like plates with grape motifs can be finished right in front of the guests, creating a fun presentation effect.

A beautiful dish decorated with thinly sliced ​​pione. A fun presentation to complete in front of your guests.

The existence of Tsuyoshi Fukuyama discovered by Asia
Taste that can only be expressed in Fukuoka


It was around 10 years after Fukuyama opened that it began to attract attention in Asia. "Many foreigners visiting Fukuoka are from Asia. I wondered where they were looking for information, and they started coming to our place often." The restaurant has grown into a well-known restaurant among inbound tourists from China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and other Asian countries visiting Fukuoka.


In 2016, the results of these efforts became tangible. It debuted at number 50 on the list of ``Asia's 31 Best Restaurants.'' At this time, many food journalists and other people concerned did not know what kind of restaurant Gou was or who Gou was. A situation that even Fukuyama himself had never imagined. However, since then, he has ranked in the top 2018 consecutively in 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, and 50.


I asked Takanori Nakamura, a journalist who is Japan's chairman of the ``World's 50 Best Restaurants'' list. The big difference with the Michelin Guide is the presence of voters, who are journalists, foodies, and others who travel around the world's dining scene. This extends to the concept and hospitality.


I asked Fukuyama how he analyzes what it is about Gou's cuisine that has made it popular among Asian foodies. ``I feel that the flavors of Kyushu and Fukuoka incorporate flavors common to Asia.For example, soy sauce in Kyushu is sweet, right?Many Asian dishes also have a sweet taste. I think they've found a taste that's common to Asia and are liking it."


It is true that Japan is a member of Asia, but geopolitically Fukuoka is closer to other Asian countries. He found a common Asian flavor in Fukuoka that flows through Fukuyama's French cuisine, and passionately supported it, pushing it into the list of ``Asia's 50 Best Restaurants.''


And this is something that Fukuyama always cherishes. The goal is to create ``food that customers will be happy with, food that they won't get tired of eating,'' and that they won't get tired of eating it.


“I have never gone to France for training. I have never worked at a famous overseas store. I had a complex about that until I was around 40. But as I got older, I stopped thinking about it. I've come to the point where I just need to create something that customers will be happy with and won't get tired of eating."


Coupled with Fukuyama's carefree and cheerful personality, it's probably the charm that attracts people that makes them want to go back to Go and meet Mr. Tsuyoshi again when they come to Fukuoka, which is why it ranks in the ranking every year.

Kitchen Kitchen

It all started in this small kitchen 20 years ago. While chatting with the staff, they work non-stop until closing time.

October 2022, 10. On the day of its 17th anniversary, "La Maison de la Nature Gou" closed its doors. Fukuyama's story, which began in this small, hidden restaurant in Nishinakasu, has come to an end, but the next chapter has already begun. A new challenge awaits at 20 BUILDING (Zero Ichi Zero Building), a complex that will be built near Canal City Hakata. What that challenge will be, and the new story that Fukuyama will write in the next chapter, will be left to the second part.



Photography by Koji Nakayama

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