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Hillside Nursery, Toftwood, Dereham, Norfolk, NR19 1NP

Q&A with Luiz Hara

How long have you been cooking and what made you decide to be a chef?

I trained as a Chartered Accountant and worked in auditing and then investment banking for many years in the City of London. But my interest in cooking had always been there which prompted me to start The London Foodie blog in 2009. I finally bit the bullet in 2011, left finance and retrained as a chef at Le Cordon Bleu; I have been working as a chef and food writer ever since. I love cooking and sharing it with others – for me there is nothing that makes me happier.

 

Can you talk us through your style of cooking?

I was born in Brazil of Japanese and Italian parents. Because of this mixed heritage, I grew up eating a combination of great pasta, Japanese food and Nikkei dishes; the latter refers to a style of Japanese cooking which uses local ingredients. Nikkei cooking was created by Japanese immigrants in South America who at the time, lacked their native ingredients and so had to be creative and use local substitutes. Today, this style of cooking can range from delicious home-style to Michelin-starred restaurant dishes in South America.

My training is in French cuisine and patisserie but I cook mostly Nikkei and Japanese at my supper club events.

 

Which chef has influenced you most during your career?

I admire a number of chefs and food writers – I learnt a great deal from the wonderful Delia Smith when I first started cooking in the 1990s and I still refer to a lot of her recipes, they never fail! I cannot think of a more influential British food writer of the last generation. I also love Ottolenghi’s work and cook often from his books.

 

What are your favourite garnishes to use when plating up?

I love using micro herbs, particularly micro coriander, shiso and basil – I enjoy the great bursts of flavour and delicate presentation they bring to dishes. I was lucky to be able to use a number of Nurtured in Norfolk’s micro herbs and edible flowers during the photo shoot of my latest cookery book The Japanese Larder, they transformed many of the dishes, making them very pretty indeed.

 

What is your favourite product to work with?

I am fascinated by the chemistry of sourdough baking and have been experimenting a lot with it in the last couple of years. It is surprising to realise what can be achieved with just a little flour, water and salt. I am learning a lot from these experiences and have produced some disastrous loaves in the past but luckily some pretty lovely ones too (lately!).

 

What does the future hold for you as a chef, what is your ambition?

I love the process of writing and research and hope to be able to get started on my 3rdcookbook title sometime soon. This is currently under discussion, so I cannot say much more about it.

I am lucky that I can divide my time between writing and cooking for the lovely people who attend my supper club, many of whom have become good friends. It was never my intention to open my own restaurant, so I look forward to continuing with the supper club and writing work as well as learning about new cuisines, ingredients and expanding my cooking repertoire.

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