Meet The Chef | Kazuya Yamauchi, KAZUYA Restaurant

Head Chef and owner of KAZUYA Restaurant, Kazuya Yamauchi had always dreamed of opening his own restaurant.

Yamauchi was drawn to the creative aspect of cooking as a child and still believes being a chef is a wonderful profession.

“Cooking is fulfilling for me because it involves the complexity of ingredient quality, temperature control, service speed, temperature, teamwork, and more.”

Following his graduation from culinary school, Yamauchi spent time working in a fine dining restaurant in Tokyo, before gaining further experience across Europe, and eventually relocating to Auckland, where three years later, he opened KAZUYA.

Yamauchi’s cooking style pays homage to the history of cuisines and its principles. He fuses a mix of traditional cooking styles and ingredients with modern flavours and techniques to create artful dishes.

“There is always a reason behind why something tastes delicious, rooted in well-founded combinations and cooking methods. By deeply understanding these elements and reconstructing them, we can bring out a beauty that goes beyond mere aesthetics.”

Recently, Yamauchi has been using sake kasu from Queenstown, a byproduct of the sake-making process, as a sauce, and after taking inspiration from North African cuisines has begun fermenting lemons to use in his cooking.

Not unlike many hospitality businesses across New Zealand, Yamauchi has struggled with staff shortages and believes the situation is only set to become more dire.

Yamauchi’s advice to young chefs was to dedicate themselves to their craft and consciously make an effort to learn new skills that will increase opportunities for career advancement.

Looking to the future, Yamauchi has plans to host KAZUYA dinners on a Japanese cruise ship, an endeavour that was put on hold due to Covid-19.

Despite an illustrious career, with highlights aplenty, Yamauchi believes one of the best parts of being a chef is providing customers with memorable experiences, time and time again.

“What brings me the most joy is when I get to meet the customers who have been using our services for their birthdays and special occasions every year.”