Minute on the clock: Yoko Nakada, Makes Miso Hungry

12 September 2023 by
Minute on the clock: Yoko Nakada, Makes Miso Hungry

The founder of Japanese recipe box business Makes Miso Hungry teamed up with izakaya restaurant Flesh & Buns in Soho, London, for a two-day tasting menu event

What has been your career path?

I wasn't always in food. I started as a lawyer. Looking back, I'm kind of surprised I managed to get through it for 10 years. As I was closing that chapter, I realised the corporate world wasn't fulfilling for me at all. I was specialising in Japanese clients, so I was helping Japanese restaurants, for example, open here. And that work was all really interesting.

I grew up cooking with my mum in the kitchen, and with my grandma. They taught me the foundations of cooking. When I was 14, I remember going to this little onigiri [rice ball] shop in Tokyo Station, and I just fell in love with the whole concept. At university I sold premade rice balls, which was really fun.

At the start of lockdown, I came up with this idea of doing Japanese meal kits. A friend was in an Asian supermarket trying to figure out what to buy to make sushi for his mom's birthday. And he said, "Oh my God, I've just spent like £150 to buy all of this stuff. And I'm probably never going to use it again." That's when I thought, what if there were these meal kit boxes like Hello Fresh and so on, specialising in authentic Japanese foods?

I did that during lockdown for two years and it was a lovely little business. I was going to Billingsgate and New Covent Garden Market getting all the ingredients, preportioning it, packing it and delivering it myself in my car to customers. It slowly grew into this business, shipping via DPD.

When lockdown ended I paused it. I've been working on a range of sauces, and running supper clubs and pop-ups around London, and sometimes outside of London. The recent one with Flesh & Buns was really exciting. I think we aligned in terms of what we stand for.

Who else have you worked with?

When I was doing the meal kits, I collaborated with chefs like Sven Hanson-Britt and Endo Kazutoshi. Recently, I did a pop-up at the Tramp club in Mayfair. I've also done a yakitori masterclass with Philli Armitage-Mattin, who was on Masterchef.

What kind of food do you cook?

I would say that, at its core, it's authentic Japanese food. With Flesh & Buns, we incorporated some of their roots, which is Nikkei, or Peruvian-influenced food.

Japanese food is fundamentally very simple, elegant, subtle food. Depending on the event I'm doing, I always think about who's going to be there. I always like to tailor it. Quite often the Western audience prefers a stronger flavour, so I incorporate some of the more powerful flavours from Japanese cooking.

How did that work at Flesh & Buns?

The general concept for Flesh & Buns was based around the summer. We wanted light, fresh flavours but something people hadn't really tried before. The courgette flowers with yuzu crab, for example, were a nice light bite but with a lot of flavour. The corn pudding is something I'd done previously at a football club, and it worked really well; it was a nice twist on a crème caramel. The shabu shabu beef was a dish we served in our meal kits that had been very well received.

How can restaurants use guest cooks like you to their advantage?

Collaborations are a fun way of mixing up the team you usually work with and learning from different people. Maybe Flesh & Buns wouldn't have thought of what I brought to the table. And equally, they shared cooking tips and restaurant-orientated ideas, so I came away having learned.

It's also an exciting way for customers to experience a limited edition menu that probably won't be repeated. For those who were able to come to the two-day tasting event at Flesh & Buns, it was a really special experience.

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