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Japanese chef, 43, tops prestigious world culinary ranking La Liste

PARIS : Yosuke Suga does not believe he is a great chef, even though the statistics tell a different story.

The fresh-faced 43-year-old Japanese is at the top of La Liste, a French list of the 1,000 best restaurants in the world and the most scientific of all the world's culinary rankings.

He shares the top spot with culinary gods such as France's Guy Savoy, 66, and Eric Ripert, 54, of Le Bernardin in New York.

While both Savoy and Ripert have the maximum three Michelin stars, Suga does not even have one yet for Sugalabo, his tiny 20-seat restaurant hidden away behind a coffee house in Tokyo's Azabudai district since 2014.

Which makes his rapid rise all the more remarkable given that La Liste aggregates reviews from the world's top guides, newspapers and websites.

Suga, who comes from three generations of chefs trained in the French classical tradition, insists he is not quite there yet.

"I don't have a signature dish so I am not yet a great chef," he said, before he was honoured at La Liste's gala dinner in Paris on Monday.

Having globetrotted for 17 years as the "right arm" to the late French superchef Joel Robuchon - the most starred ever - the bar has been set high.

"One day I hope to be one," he added.

For now, Suga - who was put in charge of the 100-strong team of Robuchon's two-star Tokyo restaurant at just 25 - is on a quest.

TRAVEL

Shrugging off the financial hit, every month he closes his restaurant for three or four days so he can travel Japan with his team looking for new ingredients and producers.

He is after hyper-seasonality, to get the very best ingredients and cook them at just the right moment.

"It is not like going to the market. We try to understand why we should use a product now and not in a month's time," he said.

Last month, that meant going to the Ishikawa peninsula in the west of Japan for a particular type of squid. While there, they found a variety of lotus root just coming into season.

"We made a stuffing from wild Japanese duck stew reduced with Madeira wine and foie gras and then fried it wrapped in the grated lotus root. Had we not gone and met the farmer, we probably would never have made this," he said. - AFP

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