Have you always been immersed in the world of food? How did you become a chef?
I grew up entirely with the Japanese side of my family so I was around a lot of Japanese cooking. Also a lot of Yoshuku style cuisine which is a pretty wild combination of western dishes and traditional Japanese cuisine. If you don’t know about it, look it up!!! One of the first jobs I ever had was at the Good Earth health food store in Marin. It had been open since 1969 and was my first introduction to vegetarianism, macrobiotic and ayurveda.
What does the magic of plants mean to you? How did you discover it?
Well, I believe that each type of plant has a purpose, mission and a message here in this reality. I believe over the years I have honed my skills as a medium between plants and those who consume them. As a plant based chef I spent almost a decade preparing, drying, cooking, marinating, pickling and fermenting and making powerful connections and combinations of nearly all the plants that we consider “edible” and all the ones we don’t. I have always had not only had this human connection to them but a rather scientific and investigative cerebral connection as well. I’ve filled perhaps hundreds of notebooks with recipes, notes and esoteric concepts. I already have enough concepts for the next 50 Dark Horse concoctions!
What was the inspiration for Dark Horse? Why condiments? Why ferments?
After years of opening restaurants I was so burned up and and on the verge of some type of adrenal fatigue that I just wanted to take my creations into more of a laboratory and experimental direction. Along the way I had been really turned onto tonic herbs and mushrooms and adaptogens. I loved the way some of them tasted, very earthy and pungent and I began creating my version of “spice blends”. I was really searching more for flavors than the small amount of seeds, peppers and berries that we traditionally associate as “spices”. Over time the things I began creating to later dehydrate and grind up to use as seasoning on my dishes become more and more delicious to me in their natural fermented forms or as sauces, bouillons and pastes. I really began focusing on sauces because for one, I always make them from scratch in my restaurants and also I found even if people are going to farmer's markets and selecting fresh produce and preparing it at home, most of the time they are seasoning it with really subpar pantry ingredients from large chain grocery stores. Most condiments and sauces that were produced before the last 75 years or so were naturally preserved and fermented, so I’m just taking it back full circle and by passing that whole “industrial revolution” thing that destroyed so much of our living and way of life.
How do we benefit from incorporating fermented foods into our diets?
Every single traditional culture on earth had its own versions of fermented foods. On a very rudimentary level, fermented foods introduce beneficial bacteria into the microbiome of our our gut flora, which aids in digestive functions. On a deeper more spiritual level, around 90% of serotonin is created in the gut, which is a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating our mood, relaxation and sleep. On the flipside, depression is caused primarily by mitochondrial dysfunction from oxidative stress, inflammation and overly high levels of Lipopolisaccharide or (LPS). Our gut flora is literally our filter between the inner and outer worlds and contains a huge part of our immune system. Also the industrialization of food which led to the removal of bacteria as a means of longer shelf stability and the introduction of highly processed nutrient deficient foods void of bacteria leads to an unhealthy microbiome and fat storage. It’s not too hard to connect a lot of dots about the modern mono culture world and the need for more ancient and traditional types of food medicine.
What inspires you? What other media informs your cooking?
I mean, I have been to all the restaurants and seen all the books from the world’s best chefs, I have stacks of them in my office! But I’m really not that influenced by food culture. I am way more influenced by...The Emerald Tablets, Thoth, Ancient Megaliths, Zazen, The Quran, 20th century avant garde composition, Nobuyoshi Araki, Anselm Kiefer, Simulated Reality, The Pyramids of Giza, Modular Synthesis, Daido Moriyama, Russell Westbrook, Raymond Pettibon. Here is a list of albums I listen to while working:
Hiroshi Yoshimura/// green
Daniel Schmidt/// In My Arms, Many Flowers
Chaitanya Hari Deuter/// Kundalini Meditation
Elaine Radigue/// Triptych
Klaus Schultze/// Black Dance
Phillip Glass/// Koyaanisqatsi
Sven Grunberg/// Hingus
Midori Takada/// Through The Looking Glass
Suzanne Ciani/// Buchla Concerts
What are your guiding daily practices? What keeps you connected and grounded for this work?
I wake up and take tea, Gen Mai Cha with Chaga, Turkey Tail, Cordyceps and Macuna. Then I sit in Zazen for some time and then just sit with the cat and the crystals and listen to an album. Burn Moldovite. Then I take breakfast...Almost always Koda Farms rice with some kind of homemade soup, ferments, nuts and pickles. Spring Water with lemon. After food I take Silver, Gold, Quintessential, Rhodiola, Ashwagandha, Gotu Kola, Ginseng and Ormus. At that point several hours have passed and I am ready to begin whatever tasks the day has for me!
How do you understand the responsibilities involved in creating abundant, beautiful food from growing to sourcing to plating? Is the idea of food sovereignty a part of your vision as a chef?
I have always viewed my place in the modern food movement as a very precise one. I know many, many organic farmers, activists, scientists, people who fight for land and workers rights, and I allow all of them to really stick to their field of expertise as I stick to mine. As a chef I have always seen the plants as already having ridden the massive wave of energy that brought them to me and I view my role as an alchemical, transformative art which is the final process these plants will go through before they end up on a dish on a table in front of someone there to eat. I give all of my energy to to that process of transformation and showing the beauty, the power and the deliciousness of the plants. As for the food sovereignty pillars I absolutely agree with it conceptually but am always a bit weary of doctrine! I believe the first step to overthrowing the industrialized food industry is to end our consumption of factory farmed animals. It’s the main pillar which all other forms of modern corporate farming rests on.
You incorporate some truly high vibe ingredients into your food, from Ormus to charcoal. What are your favorite ingredients to work with, and why?
My quest to combine ingredients and techniques that are both ancient and modern is a never ending passion. Currently I am really interested in making and incorporating ormus into a lot of different things. We have been spiking a lot of foods and nuts with Kimchi powders and Koji, which is just SO crazy high vibe and high umami! And always, always the Mushrooms, from reishi to psilosybin, I am almost 100% convinced that mushroom spores are the only thing on earth that will save us from ourselves!!!