Sydney Chefs

Tetsuya Wakuda

Tetsuya Wakuda
Tetsuya Wakuda plating food during lunch in his Rozelle kitchen. Photograph ©Tony Knox 1995

In 1991 Stephen Downes gave Tetsuya 14 or 15 out of 20 in The Australian Financial Review.

He got two hats and 16 out of 20 from The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide: "Tetsuya Wakuda is one of our most successful exponents of fusion cuisine, and the subtle Franco-Japanese creations conjured up in a kitchen roughly the size of the passenger section of a stretch limo, are subtle, elegant, exquisitely balanced and in no way designed to draw attention to their creator."

The place is a tiny shopfront on a corner of suburban Rozelle. The little shop room seats about twenty. There is an upstairs room.

"I trained and worked for three years in a big hotel in Tokyo where I learnt Western and some Japanese food -- all the basic techniques. We did not go to school -- it is mostly that way in Japan. There are lots of private schools which don't qualify you for anything.

"Training depends on the chef and the establishment you work in.I wasn't entirely sure if I wanted to be a cook so I decided to try my luck in Australia. Not long after I arrived I met Tony Bilson and he gave me a job in 1983 at Kinsella's. I worked there for nearly two years. I started by doing some Japanese food -- sushi, etc,. and then he gave me the chance to do other things and he basically told me to trust my instincts and to try mixtures. He taught me but also gave me the confidence and opportunity to test a lot of mixtures. The kitchen there was set up like a Japanese kitchen with a lot of Japanese knives etc.

"I left Kinsella's with one of the managers from there to set up Rose's night-club where I worked as chef for a year before they tried to move. Then through Anders Ousback I met Hans Mohr and went with him to start Kytes where I worked as second chef for about six months and I learnt a lot from Hans.

"Then I went to the Post and Whistle at Hunters Hill for six months as head chef. Then I had the opportunity with a friend to start Ultimo's where I worked two years but his parents became sick and he had to go back to Ireland; I had the opportunity to take over the restaurant myself but the rent was very high and the position not so good so I sold the business and then this place came available. So we started in May 1988 and it has worked very well. I do all the cooking with my wife who I have taught -- she does cold larder and presentation.

"Early next year we hope to rebuild the kitchen -- at the moment there is so much compromise we have to make with the menu from such a small kitchen. There are two of us and we do 180 to190 dishes a day -- we have 44 covers, every one has at least four courses -- it is a lot for two people.

"I don't pre-cook anything so have to use some cold entrees for all diners.

"I don't use any dairy products except in desserts. People seem to expect that in a Japanese style restaurant. There are many regular customers. I change the menu a lot; every three to four weeks.

"I like the food at Trianon very much. His food is very well cooked with beautiful sauces. and very good desserts. Peter Doyle comes here a lot too, I don't know why his restaurant is not more popular.

"I also like the Burdekin -- simple and good; Rockpool is interesting for me too".

Tetsuya is today, December 1996, regarded as one of the rare, great, exponents of mixed Asian and European cooking. His subtle flavours are still to found in the same Rozelle shopfront, which he remodelled in 1993. The restaurant now seats 65 and Tetsuya works with three chefs and one, sometimes two, kitchenhands, in an impressively equipped kitchen. In1995 I had an exquisite and beautifully presented lunch on immaculate crockery. There were two waiting staff for less than a dozen clients, there are four at night when it is nearly always booked out.

In 2000 Tetsuya moved from his original location in Rozelle to smart new premises at 529 Kent St Sydney 2000, bookings +61 2 9267 2900.


Also, see this 1999 interview (and recipes) with Tetsuya Wakuda and a review of Tetsuya's Restaurant.

Mietta O'Donnell
February 1991
Updated December 1996 and April 2001
©Mietta's 1996