Chicago Shimpo
Japanese Cuisine at Chicago Gourmet
Authentic Wagyu Beef Focused by Chef Chiba

• “Bon Appetit Chicago Gourmet” took place at Chicago’s Millennium Park on September 29th and 30th, and other related events were held at different places in Chicago between September 26th and 30th.
• This year, 67 exhibitors opened booths and introduced their food, beverages, and services. Under the Gourmet Tasting Pavilions, food was served by many restaurants with special themes such as ethnic cuisine of Mexico and Thailand. One of the interesting themes was “Hungry Like The Wolf Tasting Pavilion.” Moreover, 77 groups and organizations introduced numerous bottles of wine, whisky, spirits, and more under four of the Great Lawn Tasting Tents. JETRO (Japan External Trade Organization) Chicago introduced some varieties of Japanese sake under the tents.

• Japan Pavilion was opened by the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago in conjunction with some Japanese companies to introduce Japanese cuisine, culture, sightseeing spots, and more.
• Yoshi’s Café served 1,500 pieces of wagyu beef cooked by Chef Chiba, Naoki Sushi served Poke Bowls, and Slurping Turtle served pieces of sushi role with wasabi miso.

• On the Main Stage and Culinary Stage, cooking demonstrations were held by famous chefs all the days. This year, Japanese Chef Masuo Chiba from Tokyo gave a lecture how to eat wagyu Japanese beef in delicious ways along with Chicago’s Chef Takashi Yagihashi of Slurping Turtle.

Wagyu Japanese Beef Introduced by Chiba and Yagihashi

• For the last demonstration on the Main Stage, Chef Chiba spoke about the genuine wagyu produced in Japan with witty English translations provided by Chicago attorney George Kobayashi. While Chiba was talking, Chef Yagihashi cooked thin-sliced wagyu meats in a way of shabushabu and sukiyaki. The demonstrations were emceed by Steve Dolinsky, award-winning food reporter in Chicago.

• Chef Masuo Chiba, who was born in a family of a wagyu grower and a quality judge, opened his first restaurant “Kakunoshin” in his hometown of Ichinoseki in Iwate Prefecture by using wagyu raised in the town. His unique characteristics are purchasing a whole wagyu and maturing its meat to make it softer and tastier. He has taken entrepreneurship to bring produce in his hometown to Tokyo and beyond through his 16 restaurants, three in Iwate and 11 in Tokyo.

• Chiba said that the word “wagyu” has become one of the beef brands in the world and has been produced abroad; however, “wagyu” was a Japanese word and a type of beef meat originated in Japan. He explained the differences between authentic wagyu and foreign produced.

• According to Chiba, wagyu producers are divided in two categories, breeding farmers and raising farmers. When calves become 10-months old, breeding farmers bring their calves to market, then raising farmers buy some calves by their preferences such as calf’s size or future meat quality.
• The raising farmers grow each calf along with its character, so that hi-quality meat will be produced. On the other hand, foreign wagyu are raised by the farmer from their birth to maturity.
• Another feature of wagyu is: a wagyu calf is born between wagyu father and wagyu mother. On the other hand, most foreign wagyu cows have a wagyu father and an Angus mother. Such wagyu cows are called “washu gyu.”

• The wagyu meat is marbled with red meat and fat, so it is better to eat as shabushabu (cooked in boiling water) with ponzu, sour soy sauce, or sukiyaki with sweet soy sauce rather than eating it as a steak.

• Chiba said that every part of wagyu raised in Japan was tasty because farmers grow each cow with a special care. His restaurants buy a whole wagyu and divide it to 82 parts, then cook each part differently.
• He mentioned about wine selections for wagyu, saying that white wine was the best because the color of marbled meat, which was called “shimo furi,” was light. He also said that sake, Japanese rice wine, matched shimo-furi meat very well.

Wagyu & Sake Tasting Event

• A Wagyu & Sake Tasting event was held on October 1 at the official residence of Consul General of Japan to invite food industry professionals. The event was hosted by the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago in cooperation with JETRO Chicago to take advantage of Chef Chiba’s visit to Chicago and to introduce pairing tastes of wagyu and sake.
• Tenzing Wine and Spirits, Joto Sake, and Vine Connections brought their best selections such as “Kuroushi Omachi” from Wakayama Prefecture, “Seikyo” from Hiroshima, and “Cowboy” from Niigata.

• Consul General Naoki Ito said that the Consulate has seized every opportunity to promote sake and Japanese food in the Midwest in conjunction with JETRO Chicago. “So the people in the Midwest know about beef, but one thing missing may be how good wagyu is with sake. Today’s wagyu from Kagoshima has been available in the Chicagoland area through distributors,” he said.
• According to CG Ito, the sake “Cowboy” was introduced during the Midwest U.S.-Japan Association Conference held in Omaha last September. Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts liked it and chose it when Chairman Yuzaburo Mogi of Kikkoman made a toast.

• Chef Chiba said, “You can not only enjoy simply eating a piece of wagyu meat, but also enjoy making combinations with other ingredients. In this way, you can find unique flavor of wagyu. Today, you will experience it.”
• Chiba served wagyu sushi with toppings, ikura (salmon caviar) and uni (sea urchin). The wagyu sushi is his own creation, and he calls it as “surf and turf” of wagyu. He also served grilled wagyu with ponzu sauce and sukiyaki soy sauce.

Interview with Chef Chiba

• Q: How did you start your business?

• Chiba: I was born and raised in a family of wagyu judges in Ichinoseki, Iwate, so I was familiar with wagyu. I once worked in a private company and returned to my hometown and opened a Kakunoshin restaurant in 1999. At that time, I thought that direct marketing age would come soon. Producers like wagyu raising farmers would sell their cows directly to the food industry or consumers. So I thought that I would try to work in a span, from producing wagyu to a moment that a consumer brings a piece of meat into his or her mouth.

• For about for 10 years, I have been working to connect many kinds of produce from Iwate to Tokyo and to the world.
• The Ichinoseki area has been hit by depopulation. My father had 200 classmates in middle school, but my daughter will have only 18 classmates next year. So making connection with urban areas will help revitalize the local economy. I think that we can work for this all together.
• Eight years ago, an elementary school, where I studied, was closed, so I bought it and have been using it as our headquarters. I converted the school gym to a factory where we make chopped steaks or as we say “hamburg steaks.” We are going to sell a million pieces this year.
• I would like to make Kakunoshin restaurants as a platform of the connection between Iwate and urban areas.

• I believe that our customers are making investments when they eat at our restaurants. They eat a delicious meal and pay for it and know where their money is going. I wish that the number of such people increases, so that we can preserve our local cuisine which is supported by local culture, customs, history, and etcetera. I believe that supporting our local uniqueness will contribute to the growth of Japan’s economy.

• Q: What is maturing wagyu meat?

• Chiba: Meat is protein, so the digestive enzyme “protease” works to cut protein fiber, then the protein turns to peptide, which is made of amino acids. So the meat’s flavor is enriched during the maturing process. This is different from dry aged beef in the U.S.

• Q: Why do you buy a whole wagyu?

• Chiba: I have a clear concept to help producers. If you are a producer, and a buyer wants only fillet, how do you feel about it? I think that an important thing is accepting all the parts of wagyu and to think about how we can support producers while we consume it with our customers.

• Q: That is why your restaurants serve a full course dinner of Chef’s choice.

• Chiba: Yes. I have been studying how to cook every part of wagyu meat in the most delicious way. It’s a series of meat innovation.

• Q: What was the key of your business success?

• Chiba: If your customers don’t make a repeat order, you cannot make a success. I always ask customers what they don’t like or how they want us to change. I just followed their opinions.

• Q: Thank you very much.

Entertainment in 2018 Chicago Gourmet

Demonstration by Chef Chiba

Wagyu "shimofuri" slices

Wagyu and Sake Tasting Event

Sake "Cowboy"

Wagyu Sushi

Chef Masuo Chiba