TPOO: Time, Place, Occasion and Opportunity.

A quote from my favourite movie: "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are gonna get."

How big or how small is not important in my life. I just believe that I have an interesting chocolate box. How about you?

When I was 12 years old, my father asked me to come down into his restaurant, passed me a towel and told me to clean the table and sushi counter. If you think that just because my father is a sushi chef, then asking his son to clean tables is a typical story, then you don't know my father! Before 12 years old I never entered his kitchen, so I was curious about every one of the items in the kitchen.

It was more interesting than my favourite candy shop or playing video games with my friends. He said you should come to the restaurant every single day for cleaning. I said, "Yes!" Even when I got a fever, even when I wanted to go out, even when I was upset. Why?

Because a restaurant is a restaurant and is for customers. I can't bring in my emotions and feelings.

He challenged me and I also challenged him. This is me and my father. I continued doing this for around 10 years until I turned 22 and went to the US to study English.

When I came back, I continued working together with my father. When I turned 25, I told my father that I wouldn't need any salary from him anymore. I want to set up a catering arm for the restaurant and manage it by myself. But when I don't have any meetings or engagements, I will work for him and his restaurant for free.

Why did I say that? Because I believe that my skills can be shown outside, and I can make more money than when I worked in my father's restaurant. More importantly I feel that I should bring new customers into The Restaurant. Most of the customers are regulars and if we think about the future, we need a new generation of customers. That is why I thought of opening a catering venture to attract new customers for the future.

I felt lucky and really enjoyed serving my own creations! Do you know what is the most important thing when you throw a event? TPOO: Time, Place, Occasion and Opportunity. When I started throwing events and attending meetings, I learnt that you need to get details such as the colour coordination right as well.

For example, even when it's a standing event, if the tapas is good and is paired with champagne and nicely chilled sake, it is what I want. I wanted to do the same with sushi. I learnt lots of things from many people, and at the same time I knew that people love sushi. I'm creating my own style too, at the moment.

But there are difficult times as well. Most of the time, if people engage catering, I'm not the only chef. Event organisers often invite chefs from other cuisines. However, what is not so good is when emcees ask the guests, "Which was your favourite dish tonight?" People love comparing! But don't worry – as I mentioned, people love sushi. :)

I was also starting to understand why TPOO was so important, and that everybody likes sushi. And I could only find out about these two things because I kept joining catering events. I met many people there. (If I stayed at my father's restaurant all the time, I might not be able to notice it.) Based on these experiences, I was slowly able to create my own style of sushi.

Except for one time... One day I was serving, and there was a long queue for my sushi to the guests, who were also being served French cuisine at the event.

I was thinking today, guests will also like sushi! But within 5 minutes of waiting, the long queue went to the French chef's table. Because they had macaroons! I could see that the colours and small portion servings were more attractive to the guests...

On that moment, I knew how important dessert is... From then on, I tried to make macaroons at my kitchen. Halfway, I was thinking, "Just give up!" But after taking six months, I made my own macaroons. And people loved my macaroons after being served sushi!

Looking back, I really appreciate the lesson I learnt on the day that French chef served macaroons alongside my sushi.

This is my 3rd year in Singapore. Most people, including my business partner in Singapore, asked me, "Why Singapore?"

It was right after the big earthquake in North Japan. People stopped eating out as much and they cared more about staying at home with their family. Like many restaurants, Hashida Sushi Tokyo was badly affected. Then, I recalled my initial idea after coming back from US. I wanted to work overseas again. I felt that it was time, as my father can take care of his own business. I will bring the Hashida Sushi DNA with me, and that is why I came to Singapore.

Unfortunately, my mum passed away early last year. There are many things I wanted to show her. I couldn't even introduce my wife to her. I still remember the day my sister told me over the phone, "Mum collapsed." I panicked! At that time, memories of my mum just flashed through my mind. I flew back to see her almost every month. I wanted to share with her what I've done in Singpaore. I was in magazines and newspapers, sometimes even fashion magazines! To me, any exposure was good, as I could show them to my mum. Of course, people told me, "Hashida is crazy! I see you almost every two weeks on a magazine!" Yes. I knew that. That was all I could do to show my mum.

At the same time, I couldn't find a good souvenir. I thought, if I can't find, let's make it! So I created the Merlion Monaka. Merlion is the icon of Singapore and Monaka is a traditional Japanese dessert. I wanted to mix them together! At first look, it is a Singapore icon but the taste is both Japanese and Singapore. The Monaka consists of a wafer (made of Japanese mochi rice) and a filling of kaya (with a Japanese touch).

Unfortunately... when I was finishing the Monaka, my mum passed away. I couldn't show the souvenir to her. It was a turning point for me. Everything I had ever accomplished in Singapore felt like it was nothing.

Now I know it doesn't matter if the chocolate box is big or small. The important thing is if there is an interesting or meaningful story inside. What kind of spices? Colours? Aroma? I do not know yet what lies inside my chocolate box.
Kenjiro Hashida