MAKOTO TOKUYAMA, Owner & Chef at Cocoro

Growing up in Japan, Chef Makoto Tokuyama watched his family create incredible traditional dishes, and it was here that his love for food was born. “I became a chef because I love to eat, to drink, to meet people and most importantly to see people become happy through these things,” said Tokuyama. “I go to the market every morning to buy the produce used for the day to ensure the quality of my food that goes out to customers. I spend a lot of time to find great ingredients and make my best effort to communicate with suppliers and producers. But most importantly, I am always in the kitchen of my restaurant.”

On a recent trip back to his hometown in Japan for his sister’s wedding, Tokuyama enjoyed being back in his environment and tasting the food he was brought up with and truly reminded him of his roots and cooking philosophy.

“Cooking in my kitchen is almost military-like,” he said (half) jokingly. “I do believe that working hard and having the self-discipline always leads to a much sweeter success. I am very much looking forward to seeing the future of the two young chefs I am currently training at Cocoro, William Jing and Niki Hattori.”

Although he doesn’t spend much time looking at the trends that come and go, Tokuyama makes time to read and learn about cooking techniques and business to ensure he stays up to date and to further develop the establishment.

“There isn’t one dish that I would always have on the menu at Cocoro, but I always try to incorporate something that is based on the family cooking that I was brought up with. One of my favourite cooking techniques is charcoal grilling and ingredients that are inspiring me now are definitely around NZ local seafood.”

Tokuyama has worked at some of the world’s best restaurants including Nobu in London, Trattoria Coco in Kumamoto in Japan and Rikka and Soto in Auckland to name a few. His biggest accomplishment has been opening his own restaurant Cocoro although he does believe he is “just getting started”.