Chase Kojima, executive chef, Kiyomi, The Star Gold Coast
One of the more important lessons I took away from last year was the importance of diversifying and continuing to create
Born and raised in San Francisco, Chase Kojima’s passion for food and exposure to life as a chef started young under the watchful eye of his father, Sachio Kojima, talented chef and owner of the renowned Kabuto Sushi Restaurant in San Francisco. It was there he learned the craft of traditional Japanese cuisine, a discipline and attention to culinary detail that he has mastered throughout this career. Chase went on to lead kitchens all over the globe including the renowned Nobu restaurant group and more recently, as executive chef of Kiyomi at The Star Gold Coast. The esteemed and charismatic chef is in town to host a series of Omakase dinners and we borrowed a few minutes of his time to chat COVID, Omakase and family dinners.
2020 was a particularly challenging year on the hospitality front. How did you keep busy during the lockdown?
I am a person that likes to keep very busy so when the lockdown first happened I immediately started thinking of how I could use the time away from work to learn something new – really anything to keep my mind and hands moving! Once we realised that the lockdown was going to be longer than a few weeks though my mind quickly turned to my employees and how I could help them. I was fortunate to have a friend with a cafe that could function as a takeaway venue so I was able to start selling our takeaway boxes quite early on, which ultimately enabled me to bring many of my staff back to work.
What was the most valuable lesson you took from that experience?
I learnt a lot through the challenges of 2020 but one of the more important lessons I took away from last year was the importance of diversifying and continuing to create – I have always loved to create in the kitchen but I know now that desire also extends outside of cooking. I really enjoyed creating and ideating concepts for content and getting my head around videos and YouTube last year.
You’re back on the Gold Coast for the second round of decadent Omakase experiences at Kiyomi. How does this dining experience differ from traditional Omakase?
Omakase at Kiyomi includes cooked dishes, which don’t usually appear in traditional Omakase. I’ll often include a couple of non-seafood meats, which also strays from the traditional way of doing things. I enjoy stretching myself and my staff to create dishes to include in our Omakase that aren’t traditional but still feel right at home alongside the rest of the menu.
For those who have not yet had the pleasure of attending one of your dinners, what can diners expect from the evening?
Delicious food including some menu items that they’ve either never tried or have a limited experience with alongside (hopefully!) an entertaining evening with me!
We’ve had the pleasure of being a guest at one of your events (and had a fantastic time). What’s been your most memorable Omakase dinner you’ve experienced as a guest?
I’ve been fortunate to experience amazing Omakase dinners all over the world and all of them have been memorable for different reasons. I think I probably approach an Omakase differently from most people, as I always hope to leave having learnt at least one new thing, and so far I’ve been lucky enough to do that. Whether it was a completely different way of filleting a fish that entirely changed the flavour profile or a combination of flavours I’ve not tried before, they’re all incredibly memorable for me!
As a chef, it’s pretty fair to say you’ve kicked some major career goals. What’s your proudest achievement to date?
Being able to create a business that enabled me to provide work for my team during the 2020 lockdown is something I’m incredibly proud of. I feel immensely grateful to my team for the work they do with me, so to find a solution that meant they could continue to earn money when so many in our industry couldn’t was extremely important to me.
In your opinion, how has the culinary landscape on the Gold Coast changed over the years?
I love being able to get back to my team on the Gold Coast but unfortunately, I don’t get to eat out at other restaurants here as much as I would like but I do love the casual fine dining scene that the Gold Coast is so good at; delicious food with world-class views, always a winning combination!
Your father, Sachio Kojima, is of course a talented chef and owner of the renowned Kabuto Sushi Restaurant in San Francisco, USA. Your grandfather was a fisherman in Hokkaido, Japan. How did your unique upbringing shape the kind of chef you are today?
Work hard and keep creating are the two biggest things I learnt from my father and grandfather. My Dad’s restaurant was famous for the off-menu specials – my Dad was constantly trying new things and if he liked it he’d put it on a post-it note on the menu board. It wasn’t unusual to have more ‘special’ dishes than menu dishes available! I definitely think that’s where I got my love of creating and trying new things and both he and my grandfather showed me what hard work is and that’s definitely shaped me as a chef … like I said, I like to be busy!
What did family dinners look like in your household?
We were fortunate to eat out at least once or twice a week when I was growing up, my Dad believed it was important to support the other local restaurants on the nights his restaurant was closed. When we ate at home though it was always very simple food; a go-to was a hot pot on the table with lots of different vegetables cut up with a variety of meats and dipping sauces and everyone served themselves from the table.
Finally, if you could host the ultimate Omakase for three people – living or otherwise – who would be in attendance and why?
My Mum, Roger Federer and Barrack Obama. My Mum passed away before I became a chef so I’d love to be able to cook for her. I am a huge tennis fan so I’d love the opportunity to meet Roger Federer, it’d be even better to be able to do an Omakase for him! I find Barrack Obama extremely interesting and I think he’d have amazing stories to share and a great conversationalist is always a great Omakase guest.