Published on : Thursday, November 2, 2017
Before he cooks, first he talks to the vegetables. That is the practice of Master Toshio Tanahashi, of one of Japan’s foremost experts in the vegetarian craft of shojin ryori, or Buddhist Temple cuisine. This November, Master Tanahashi comes to Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong for a three night dinner series where he will demonstrate the art of meditative cooking and the transformative power of vegetables.
A Culinary Art, Mastered
Tanahashi began his journey to enlightened cooking at the age of 27 when he left the corporate world to join Gesshinjii Temple near Kyoto to study shojin cuisine under the tutelage of a famous chef at the temple’s nunnery. After three years of intense apprenticeship, Tanahashi had learned the skills necessary to start his own restaurant dedicated to shojin cuisine.
For fifteen years, Master Tanahashi was the creative force behind the popular Gesshinkyo restaurant in Tokyo. Tanahashi attributes the success of his restaurant to its opening during a time when Japanese were seeking healthier lifestyles and looking to vegetables as a source of conscious living and mindful eating.
Word of Tanahashi’s unique skills spread to beyond Japan. To answer the call of the many people who sought to learn, in 2008 Master Tanahashi founded the Zecoow Institute, a school devoted to sharing the craft of shojin cuisine under the mantra of “eat anything that is served oneself with deep gratitude.”
Tanahashi has now dedicated his life to spreading awareness of conscious eating and a vegetable forward diet. He has taken his craft around the world, demonstrating shojin cooking at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, speaking at the World Economic Forum, Young Leaders 2016 in Tokyo, and sharing his philosophies through TEDx and classes at Google. In 2015, Alain Ducasse, one of the most respected chefs working today, invited Tanahashi to the Plaza Athenée in Paris to teach the kitchen staff and develop recipes for Ducasse’s restaurant.
“Just eat anything that is served oneself with deep gratitude” – meaning of Zecoow
From November 20 to 22, 2017, Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong will welcome Master Tanahashi for a special dinner series. During this immersive dining experience, guests will receive an intimate demonstration of meditative cooking through the process of hand grinding sesame seeds, as well as instruction in the philosophy of shojin cuisine. The demonstration will follow with a seven course dinner of exquisitely prepared vegetarian dishes. Master Tanahashi will be accompanied by one of his exclusive vegetable farmers who will speak of the relationship with plants and his process of natural fermentation farming.
Dishes include such masterpieces as:
Mukozuke – pure silence in hand crafted art – Toshio Tanahashi’s signature, wasabi, handama, Japanese pear
Agemono and yakimono fried and grilled the shojin way to bring fire with croquette of lily-bulb and truffle, and spring roll of purple potato and grape
Executive Chef Andrea Accordi has had the pleasure to train with Master Tanahashi, learning the secrets of shojin firsthand. “With shojin, food becomes meditation. When we cook we often use machines and utensils that have sounds that can be disruptive. Shojin cuisine gets rid of all this noise, working by hand with such ancient utensils as a mortar and pestle. Working in this stillness, your mind becomes attuned to the sounds of the knife slicing or the mortar crushing sesame seeds. It is a light sound but your senses become heightened. Grinding is a repetitive movement and you can feel the vibration from the movement. The sound becomes hypnotic. This process takes effort but afterward the sensation is a bit like you get after a great yoga class. It requires physical and mental training but the resulting feeling is relaxing, rather than taxing. And you have a greater clarity of mind.”