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Rainer Becker

12 May 2005

Overall ranking: 77

Chef ranking: 10

Snapshot

Rainer Becker is the German chef behind two of London's most stylish and acclaimed Japanese restaurants, celebrity hotspot Zuma and the more mid-market Roka. Before moving to the UK, Becker, opened a clutch of award-winning restaurants for the Hyatt hotel group in Germany, Australia and Japan.

Career guide

Becker, who is 43 this year, gained experience at some of Germany's top restaurants (including the Michelin-star Koenigshof in Munich and Goethehaus in Bensberg) before joining the Hyatt hotel group, where he worked for 14 years around the globe.

From 1988 to 1991 he was chef de cuisine at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Cologne. He then moved to Australia to work as executive chef at the Park Hyatt hotel in Sydney. The next stop was Japan, where he was executive chef at the Park Hyatt at the Park Hyatt in Tokyo for six years.

Becker moved to London in 1998 as executive chef of the Hyatt Carlton Tower, where he relaunched its Rib Room and Oyster Bar.

After working as a consultant on Alan Yau's Hakkasan restaurant, Becker went solo, opening Zuma in Knightsbridge in 2002, followed by Roka in Charlotte Street in the summer of 2004.

What we think

But Becker, who has a sound training in classic German and French cuisine, has a truly international background. At the Hyatt Regency hotel in Cologne, he opened a German-Asian fusion restaurant called Graugan's that scored 15/20 in France's prestigious Gault Millau guide in its first year. During his time in Cologne, Becker also co-authored a book with two Michelin-starred chef André Jaeger.

In Sydney, Becker won a Catering Executive of the Year award in 1992. He honed his twist on Japanese food at Park Hyatt in Tokyo, where he launched and ran five award-winning restaurants - including Kozue and the New York Bar and Grill - for the hotel.

Both Zuma and Roka are based around the traditional Japanese robata grill idea, but Becker has been careful to launch them as 'authentic' rather than 'traditional' Japanese restaurants which diners can find intimidating.

Zuma has already collected an impressive array of awards. It was voted the Best Oriental Restaurant in the 2002 Restaurateurs Awards, Square Meal's Best New Restaurant in 2002 and Best Restaurant in 2003, the Guild Chef's Best Newcomer in 2003, and the Tatler Restaurant of the Year for 2005.

Roka, too, is beginning to attract accolades. Becker picked up the Harpers and MoÁ«t Chef of the Year award for both Zuma and Roka in 2004, and Roka was named Oriental Restaurant of the Year in the 2005 Tio Pepe ITV London Restaurant Awards.

Becker's Indian partner, Arjun Waney, plans to open his own restaurant - a pure Provencal diner called Aix - in Waterloo Place this year. Becker will have no share in the restaurant but will design its kitchens.

Becker has no plans to open any new restaurants himself this year but he has indicated that he would eventually like to open one that isn't Japanese.

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