Masaki Sugisaki

Masaki Sugisaki

Masaki spent the next few years at Nobu, until a close friend wanted to open his own place. With Masaki’s help, Dinings Harcourt opened in 2006. This was his chance to be the creative chef he wanted to be. ‘In kaiseki restaurants like the one my parents had, you have specific ingredients you must use every month because they’re in season, and you have to cook them in a specific way. That’s why if you work as a chef for ten years in Japan, you’re still regarded as new and young – after all, you’ve only cooked each season ten times. These dishes have been carried over the generations, so they’re very historic, and there’s something quite beautiful about striving for perfection in cooking these same things over and over. But it just wasn’t for me, and the freedom I experienced in London – especially at Nobu – just spoke to me more as a chef.’

The first couple of years at Dinings Harcourt were a nervous and unsure time for Masaki. Struggling to find his own identity and very aware he could not just recreate what he’d been doing at Nobu, he would change the menu daily at the restaurant. It wasn’t until he ran a stand at the Taste of London festival that he started to become confident in his cooking.

‘Our stall was near the entrance and as soon as people came in they were queueing at our stand. It was crazy – we were working flat out all day and after the first lunch rush I just had to lie down on the floor and rest. But it made me realise we’d been doing something right, and I didn’t have to worry about things and be nervous every day at the restaurant. So I started to relax and really focus on my own identity and philosophy. I started cooking for the customers, rather than trying to show off how good traditional Japanese cuisine can be. I’ve now been cooking in London for around twenty years, which is longer than the time I’ve cooked in Japan, so this puts me in quite a unique position. I can take what I learnt in Japan, understand what people in London want to eat and add my own style to the menu.’

Masaki continued to play around with traditional sushi and sashimi at Dinings Harcourt, expanding the menu to include a variety of small plates which, while distinctly Japanese, introduced plenty of European influences. In 2013 he moved over to Dinings SW3, a larger restaurant in a beautiful Chelsea mews, which is where his full focus lies now – and where you can find the best examples of his inimitable and delicious Japanese fusion cuisine.

Three things you should know

Masaki was a keen musician in his youth, and when he first arrived in London he considered focusing on music instead of cooking. Luckily for us, he went for the latter!

Masaki works with fishermen around the UK – particularly a supplier called Pesky Fish – to start using traditional Japanese techniques for killing and storing fish when they’re caught to ensure the best possible quality in the restaurant.

Masaki has recently launched delivered barbecue boxes at Dinings SW3, giving home cooks access to the finest Wagyu beef and all the accompaniments to create a seriously luxe barbecue in their own gardens.