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Meet the chef: Masaki Sugisaki, chef owner of Dinings SW3, Knightsbridge in London

We spoke to Masaki about his upbringing in Japan, his experience in the industry and his passions outside of the world of food.

By LLM Reporters  |  March 27, 2022
Masaki Sugisaki, chef owner of Dinings SW3

Masaki Sugisaki is the chef owner of Dinings SW3, a leading Knightsbridge restaurant specialising in an evolved Izakaya style of cooking, combining authentic Japanese influences with European cuisines to create delicious small plates in a relaxed and convivial atmosphere.

We spoke to Masaki about his upbringing in Japan, his experience in the industry and his passions outside of the world of food. 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, including your where you are today, professionally, and what got you here?

I was born into the industry, my parents owned a traditional kaiseki restaurant next to Tokyo in a city called Saitama. I grew up in Japan, the tradition stands that the oldest son takes over the family business, so my parents made me work in the kitchen from the moment I started high school. Retrospectively I can see that I was lucky, I honed my craft from a young age, but at the time I hated it as it was attached to such a feeling of responsibility so young. After several years of working in the kitchen, I wanted to explore something other than traditional Japanese cuisine and decided to move to London.

It was the early 90s in London and a complete culture shock from what I was used to. There was very little visibility and understanding of Japanese culture, especially in terms of food. Through observation and the lack of Japanese ingredients in the UK, I considered how European flavours and ingredients could balance traditional Japanese cooking. I revisit these early memories in London often and since I have been dedicated to showcasing Japanese cuisine in a contemporary way that incorporates European flavours.

Masaki Sugisaki, chef owner of Dinings SW3
Masaki Sugisaki is the chef owner of Dinings SW3 in London

What or who inspired you to become a chef?

My grandma, we didn’t live together, but whenever I would visit she would cook something amazing, she took the time to teach me and explain every part of a dish. I particularly loved her interpretation of traditional Japanese cooking, I’d always look forward to visiting and learning more.

Who has been your biggest influence to get you to where you are today?

Mr Nobu Matsuhisa. If hadn’t had the chance to work in his restaurant, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now. Matsuhisa’s philosophy was born out of a passion for Japanese cuisine, which he has adapted to form something unique. During my time working in the kitchen on Nobu Park Lane, I was shocked in a good way and I developed my own signature style and a way to channel my creativity.

What’s your signature dish?

I don’t have one specific signature dish. I work with what’s available to me at the time, at Dinings SW3 we want to use as much of each fish as possible, for example, we use shellfish waste to create lobster miso or vegetable waste to create stocks plant-based sauces. We have a signature style and philosophy at Dinings SW3.

What are the most important considerations when crafting your menu?

Crafting a dish that pays homage to Japanese traditions whilst being accessible to a non-Japanese guest. Much of Japanese cuisine is still unknown in the UK, so I want to introduce it to the menu in ways that are always enjoyable.

Nestled in a mews off Walton Street in Knightsbridge, Dinings SW3 is renowned for its elegant and modern take on the Japanese Izayaka – a style of cooking combining authentic Japanese and European cuisines

Do your personal preferences influence the menu at all?

Yes, the majority of the time. I want to be certain that the dishes I’m creating are representative of my passion.

How would you describe your cooking style?

Genuine Japanese cookery that is translated through a European lens.

Do you have a favourite time of year or set of ingredients that you look forward to working with?

Early summertime, when the beautiful spiny lobster season starts. My friend, ‘fisherman Ben’ from Newquay catches lobsters sustainably in pots. It’s this time of year that makes me excited for what’s to come.

What is your favourite ingredient to create with?

Any variety of fish and seafood, I simply love to work with them in every capacity. Fish and seafood cookery requires acute attention to detail, a familiar feeling that I associate with my chef beginnings.

What would you be doing if you weren’t a chef?

A potter, I love everything about it. It’s at the top of my list when I retire.

What is your favourite dish to cook at home?

Japanese breakfast, grilled salt-cured fish, freshly steamed rice, miso soup with seasonal vegetables, traditional pickled vegetables, sweet Japanese omelettes and fermented sticky soya bean!

Masaki Sugisaki has developed a menu that is fuelled with innovative spirit offering a unique style of sushi and sashimi that changes with the seasons using only the freshest seafood from Cornish day boats

When are you happiest?

Going fishing on my friend’s fisherman’s boat!

What is your favourite piece of kitchen equipment?

Chopsticks.

When you’re not in the kitchen where can you be found?

A long, relaxing bath, maybe I’m missing Japanese Onsen!

What’s your favourite takeaway or comfort food?

Late-night Chinese, especially when I’ve had a drink!

Where is your favourite place to dine?

Home, in Japan.

Dinings SW3 has recently launched an exciting new delivery and takeaway service to include a selection of skillfully crafted ‘Dinings at Home’ Kits that promise an unforgettable and authentic Japanese dining experience in the comfort of your own home

What differences do you find working with local produce as opposed to non-local produce in terms of what you can create and flavour? 

Working with only Japanese ingredients can feel restrictive at times. As a Japanese chef, I rely on basic ingredients from Japan, when it comes to fresh produce it makes complete sense to work with fresh local ingredients. It can be challenging to find great local food producers, but that’s why I travel everywhere to build direct relationships with the producers themselves.

How do you go about menu planning? What’s the process from picking the ingredients to getting them fresh into the kitchen and into dishes?

Always look for what’s best in that time and trying to focus on the ingredients to maximise its potential. So, prefer to work with less variety of ingredients in general and try highlight it’s character.

What’s your favourite flavour combination?

Sake, soy sauce and mirin.

Factbox

Address: Lennox Gardens Mews, London SW3 2JH
Phone: 020 7723 0666
Website: diningssw3.co.uk

All imagery supplied by Dinings SW3