Chef Niki Nakayama of L.A.’s n/naka takes my breathe away. Not only is her name swirling in the international dining scene, she may just be the only Kaiseki female chefs in the world – a role that is traditional exclusive to men.
Kaiseki is traditionally a multi-course dinner grounded by Buddhist customs. There’s a natural flow to when and how the ingredients are served. Chef Nakayama respectfully gives Kaiseki traditions a modern twist with her personal philosophy of utilizing ingredients that are closest — for her it’s the California land and sea. Her philosophy is not only giving attention to the dish that is served at the moment but she gives careful thought on the dish before and after. The connection of flavours and textures from dish to dish is equally as important.
Her plating is an art form in itself. Each plate plays a clean canvas to showcase what this earth has given to us as a gift. Watching her plate is very fluid and natural and when I see her creations, I can taste the food without even having to taste it. This is more than food. It’s art.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, chef Niki Nakayama began her career at the renowned Takao restaurant in Brentwood, working under the guidance of esteemed chefs Takao Izumida and Morihiro Onodera. Committed to exploring new techniques, Niki embarked on a three-year working tour throughout Japan, sampling her way through different regional flavors and immersing herself in the essentials of Japanese cuisine, both traditional and cutting-edge. While working at Shirakawa-Ya Ryokan, (Japanese inn owned by relatives) Niki trained under chef Masa Sato in the art of Kaiseki the traditional Japanese culinary practice.
Chef Nakayama is one of six chefs who are featured in the upcoming new and beautifully presented Netflix’s Original Docu-series Chef’s Table (all episodes available for streaming on April 26, 2015). The series is created by director David Gelb (Jiro Dreams of Sushi).
Here is the latest trailer for Chef’s Table (just released this morning!) on Chef Nakayama’s episode here…