By Nina Huang
Northwest Asian Weekly
Local chef Taichi Kitamura, owner and chef of Sushi Kappo Tamura appeared on the Food Network’s “Beat Bobby Flay” TV show on March 5.
It was a packed house at Tini Bigs Lounge for the viewing party of “Beat Bobby Flay” where folks gathered to watch and support Kitamura as he went head to head against Flay.
Kitamura was born and raised in Kyoto, Japan, and lived there until he was 16. He came to Seattle as an exchange student at Lynnwood High School, and later graduated from Seattle University in 1997.
He opened his first restaurant Chiso in Fremont in 2001. He later sold the restaurant, and opened his current Eastlake spot Sushi Kappo Tamura in 2010. Prior to running his own restaurants, Kitamura trained under his mentor and another local Seattle chef Shiro Kashiba for four years, and also worked at I Love Sushi.
When casting agents called Kitamura and told him that he was chosen for the show, he was surprised. Kitamura didn’t think he did well during the interview. But nevertheless, he was ready to take on his first competitor to get to Bobby Flay.
He went against global chef David deCastro for the right to challenge the renowned Bobby Flay. In the first round, Kitamura had to cook a porterhouse steak.
“It was a big steak, and it had just been taken straight out of the refrigerator. Normally, steak should be room temperature, but because of the size and time limit, I had to make sure it was cooked all the way through, but not overdone,” he said.
Kitamura created two different dishes with the porterhouse steak: strip loin with ponzu sauce and filet with soy butter.
Despite judge Giada De Laurentiis’ criticism of Kitamura creating “meat and sauce,” he ultimately earned the chance to take on Flay in the final around.
“I knew the judges would look for technique of cooking the meat as opposed to making a beautiful presentation. I demonstrated that I knew how to cook a piece of meat, the texture and flavor was there,” he said.”
With Kitamura making it to the final round, judge Michael Symon was ready for Kitamura to drop the hammer on Flay.
In the final round against Flay, Kitamura got to pick his signature dish to challenge Flay. He chose pot stickers. He also contemplated making sushi, okonomiyaki, a spicy tuna roll, and even chicken teriyaki because he wanted to represent Seattle.
Kitamura had made pot stickers thousands of times with his own twist. He used kurobuta pork with shrimp for the filling, and rice wine vinegar, soy sauce and sea urchin for his special dipping sauce.
“I knew it was the flavor that was going to make me a winner, not the presentation,” he explained.
On the other hand, the judges critiqued Flay’s pot stickers for being slightly undercooked and the overuse of yuzu in the dipping sauce.
In the end, the judges unanimously chose Kitamura’s pot stickers as the winning dish. And Kitamura succeeded in beating Flay.
Also at the viewing party, executive chef of TASTE restaurant, Craig Hetherington, who has known Kitamura for a long time, was proud of his fellow chef friend’s TV appearance, “This does nothing but bring life to Seattle’s food scene.”
At Kitamura’s restaurant, they use local, seasonal and sustainable ingredients. He takes pride in being very knowledgeable about the fish since he is a fly fisherman. He knows which river has what type of fish, and how it’s caught, for example.
Kitamura is excited for folks to try his signature dishes from the show at his restaurant where he will be featuring the porterhouse steak and pot stickers on the omakase menu until the end of April.
What’s next for Kitamura? He wants to continue doing what he loves: making good and authentic Japanese food and making people happy.
“Authentic Japanese food is still foreign to a lot of people, and our goal is to establish a trust relationship with the customer. I also want to help Seattle gain more attention in the food scene; there’s a lot of talent and a lot of great ingredients, and it’s a beautiful city to visit. If I can help, then I’d be happy to do that” he said. (end)
Nina Huang can be reached at email@example.com.