With an empire of over 30 restaurants and seven hotels, Nobu’s founder is quite the traveller, spending 10 months away a year working on his portfolio of eateries and establishments, he admits he’s on a pursuit of ‘perfection’.
Hosting divine Japanese cuisine and luxury focused hospitality, Nobu is never short of a busy appointment book. His plans continue as the years go by. Now at 68, his plans with business partner Robert De Niro in toe, is to branch out to spa and wellness centres known as ‘Nobu Zen’ that will give visitors the full Nobu experience.
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‘After a flight, the body, the muscles are tight and tired.’ futhermore, contrary to popular belief by Gordon Ramsay that red wine combats jet lag, Nobu swears by rice-wine saké. ‘No, no I’m not an alcoholic’, he says with a laugh, and while he is a wine and saké enthusiast his focus is on the food served in his restaurants. ‘I like Italian, Chinese, Greek but simple cooking,’ arguably Nobu doesn’t sugarcoat his diet, ‘for me the way to do it, is to eat everything and exercise.’ Running between cities, keeping his establishments in check, he confesses each keep his own knife for him, and a pair of gym shoes.
Understandably when a new restaurant is opened, local ingredients are used and Mr Matsuhisa is excited to see what his chefs come up with. ‘I never say no, but I try to make it better as a challenge’.
With his Tokyo branch run by his eldest daughter, he and his wife reside in Los Angeles, despite his travels to and from Japan frequently he professes that this keeps his marriage fresh as well communication and trust. Having begun with the help of his wife Yoko at 23, becoming an international sensation wasn’t an overnight success, Nobu comes from humble beginnings. At the tender age of 17 he got his first job as a dishwasher in Matsy-sushi in Shinjuku, Tokyo. Following this the young chef trialled sushi restaurants in Peru and Argentina with both failing he tempted suicide. Luck, however was on his side, ‘even though I lose everything I was healthy, which is why I woke myself up.’
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Today, the fruitful business is home to healthy, simple fish that is the most sought after in Beverley Hills with famous face frequently passing by. So much so when actor Robert De Niro caused excitement at the restaurant, Nobu’s black cod had him hook, line and sinker that he requested opening a restaurant in New York with him. ‘Of course he is a great actor and the biggest Hollywood star, but we do business together and he understand what I want to do’. adds Nobu.
When asked if there is any discrepancies between the two gentlemen, Nobu laughs ‘yes, like in a movie, sometimes arguments are good for the future. People have stress, they argue, and after they understand each other more. Like a marriage.’
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