An alum of Top Chef Masters and the culinary maestro behind Takashi and Slurping Turtle, Takashi Yagihashi has proven his mettle both as an esteemed chef and as an amiable television personality. As Top Chef spins off yet again with their Duels edition, I chatted with Yagihashi about reality TV and the behind-the-scenes ingredients therein.
Matt Kirouac: What intrigues you the most about appearing on shows such as Top Chef Masters and Top Chef Duels?
Takashi Yagihashi: I was really intrigued to know how it all worked with the overall production of the show. I had explored the opportunity previously, but had a conflict in taping so when the opportunity for Top Chef Masters presented itself again, I wanted to test my limit and see what I could do in the kitchen.
MK: What is the most challenging aspect of doing such shows?
TY: To keep your concentration. With all the cameras, behind-the-scenes team, and the pressure of the time, it's easy to lose focus. There are definitely good and bad days. When you can stay focused, you can do a lot just as you would in your own kitchen.
MK: For Top Chef Duels, what was it like competing against a culinary comrade?
TY: For me, it's not so much about the competition and beating a culinary comrade, it's about proving to myself that I can do the challenge that's presented.
MK: Was Duels more challenging than Masters? Why or why not?
TY: Duels, definitely. You'll see with the show, but it's really all about the challenge of cooking and testing your skills all under the pressure of the clock. Masters was more about your ability to think on your feet.
MK: Would you consider doing something like this again?
TY: Absolutely! If the opportunity presents itself.
MK: Is there any other type of reality TV program you'd be interested in participating in? Culinary or otherwise.
TY: I'd love to do a travel show to showcase Japan. I think it would be great to expose the world to my hometown of Mito, somewhere that's very special to me. There is such a rich history of Japanese food culture and smaller towns like mine are known for monkfish and natto (fermented soybeans). I'd love the opportunity to show that on television.
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Matt Kirouac has been writing about food for publications in Chicago and around the country for several years now.
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