Zuma's Chef Bjoern Weissgerber Talks About a German Toque Making Japanese Food
photo by Christina Staalstrom
New Times: Why did you pick Miami as the first U.S. location for Zuma?
Weissgerber: Miami is a fun and vibrant city. It's about going out and having a good time, and that is what we want our guests to experience here at Zuma. Miami is also a destination for people from all over the U.S., so we thought it would be a great place to introduce the concept.
Please explain what izakaya-style dining is.
Izakaya is a bar that serves food with your drinks. It's similar to what tapas are to Spanish cuisine.
You were instrumental in creating some of the dishes. Could you take us through that process?
There is no specific method. You start with a fresh ingredient and add components to it. Sometimes you add too much and have to start over. But sometimes you are lucky and you create a perfect dish.
Japanese food is very different from your native German. Do you ever use any German influence or see that it comes through in your dishes?
I don't know if I would say German "influence," but I do use a lot of fresh ingredients and try to cook with integrity. German cooking is not fancy, and I try to make my dishes clean, simple, and good. The key is to use the best ingredients.
You have an extensive sake menu. Which is your favorite?
Wakatake. It's a cold sake that is very clear and crisp, so it doesn't overwhelm the palate. But if you want something very special, I love Yukimanman -- perfectly balanced, superaromatic, well-structured, and just a pleasure to drink.
What is the most difficult dish on the menu for your kitchen to make?
No one dish is harder than others. Sometimes making the simplest dishes can be the hardest because you can't hide anything.
You spent some time in Arizona with Roka Akor, a robata [Japanese grill] restaurant also in the Zuma family. How has the transition to Zuma and the different style of cooking been?
At Roka Akor, everything is cooked.The challenge at Zuma is that we have three different areas: the robata grill, with an open flame; the sashimi, which is raw and needs to stay cold; and then the tempura, which is fried and, again, hot. It's a challenge to control the chaos.
What is your management style in the kitchen?
It is all based on trust and respect. The restaurant is like our own little world, and everyone has a role to perform to keep things running smoothly. We are all the Zuma family.
What do you want people to walk away from Zuma saying?
The food was excellent; I was treated well and had a great time.
Tomorrow, we'll share Chef Weissgerber's recipe for seared tuna with chili daikon and garlic chips.
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