Hiro Sone "The Master of his Craft"

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I have been fortunate to be friends with Hiro for many years. when I first started cooking he was a hero who I looked up to then as I grew in my career we became friends. He was always there for advice, guidance and direction when needed and when it wasn’t asked for as well. His honesty in food and love of the craft is infectious. His experience is unprecedented, I am honored to call him a friend , a mentor! He is just one hell of a human being who has helped shape the culinary scene of the bay area and beyond.

follow him: @hiro_sone

follow him: @hiro_sone


Hiro Sone has come a long way from his beginnings on a premium rice farm in Miyagi, Japan. The cuisine of 2003 winner of the James Beard Foundation’s “Best Chef of California” and 2008 winner of the James Beard Foundation’s “Out Standing Service” subtly pays homage to his Japanese heritage. But years of disciplined training, cooking experience, and global travel have had equal influence over refined and eclectic cooking style.

Hiro developed a respect for ingredients from his family who has been growing premium rice for 18 generations. He recalls, “My mother, who’s a great cook of Japanese and Western style cuisine, took care of the vegetable gardens between rice farming. My grandmother took care of the chickens and cows. I still remember digging potatoes by hands, the rich smell of fresh milk, and helping with the rice harvest each fall. At the end of the day, after everybody had left the rice field, my grandmother would pick up each lost rice grain from the ground in the dark. I learned from her that even a piece of rice should be treated with respect.”

Moving from the rice fields into the revered Osaka culinary school École Technique Hôtelière Tsuji in 1977 the 18 year-old applied that same regard and attention to detail to his studies. Under the tutelage of French masters such as Paul Bocuse and Joel Robuchon, he developed a passion and talent for French cooking that propelled him from graduation to French and Italian restaurant kitchens in Tokyo where he worked his way up from dishwasher to sous chef, and five years later into the kitchens of Wolfgang Puck.

In 1983, Hiro was hired to open Spago Tokyo and went to Los Angeles to train for two months at Spago Hollywood. The experience proved pivotal. Amidst the pots and pans he met his future wife and restaurant partner Lissa Doumani and over the next year and a half he got the opportunity to create and oversee the first California cuisine restaurant in Japan.

Inspired by a newfound appreciation for California cuisine, the young chef returned to Spago Hollywood as kitchen manager in 1984 and was promoted to Chef de Cuisine within six months. By 1988 he and Lissa were dreaming of a restaurant of their own, and found it in Napa Valley. The couple opened Terra in 1988 to overwhelming acclaim and it remained for thirty years as one of the Valley’s top restaurants until the closure in 2018

In 1991 Hiro and Lissa received “America’s Best New Chef Award” from Food and Wine Magazine.

In 2000 Terra Received “Robert Mondavi Culinary Excellence Award”

In 2001 Terra Cookbook “TERRA: Cooking From The Heart Of Napa Valley” was nominated for “Best American Cookbook” by James Beard Foundation.

In 2003 Hiro won “Best Chef of California” by James Beard Foundation.

Same year Hiro Story was featured in Japanese prime TV show Jonetsu Tairiku 情熱大陸

In 2005 opened Ame in St. Regis Hotel San Francisco, brings the signature taste of their wine country restaurant to appreciative San Francisco diners.

In 2006 Ame received “The Best New Restaurant In U.S.A.” by Esquire Magazine.

In 2007 Terra received “Michelin One Star” (Terra continued to receive Michelin Star every year until when Terra closed in 2018.)

In 2008 Ame received “Michelin One Star” (Ame continued to receive Michelin Star every year until when Ame closed in 2016

In 2008 Terra received “Outstanding Service Award” by James Beard Foundation.

Today Hiro’s inspiration comes from visiting local farms and ranches and learning their intricacies. From close relationships with local growers and winemakers and a respect for the seasons and their unique offerings, he creates innovative seasonal menus mixed with unexpected flavors from Italy, France, and the Orient—destinations he and Lissa visited during their vacations.

Over three decades after leaving the Japanese countryside Hiro’s cooking honors the greatest culinary influences of his life—his heritage, classic training, and travels. But it’s his continued respect for details as minute yet important as a grain of rice that makes each dish beautifully designed with layers of flavors and textures that lend a depth that astounds with every bite.

Hiro is co-author of cookbooks “TERRA cooking from heart of Napa Valley” and “A Visual Guide to Sushi-Making”

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