Tribeca Culinary Pioneer Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa

Tribeca Culinary Pioneer Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa

January 20, 2015
River & Warren
John Lennon famously stated in a Rolling Stone interview in 1971, “I’m an artist, and if you give me a tuba I’ll get you something out of it.” World-renowned chef Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa might just be the culinary equivalent of the famous Beatle. His ability to draw intense and robust flavors out of ingredients never believed to possess such depth is unrivaled. He is known for his ability to combine ingredients from around the globe into new interpretations of Japanese dishes. His food is expressive and inviting, nuanced yet full-bodied—no matter the ingredients, he’ll get you something out of it.

Born and raised just outside Tokyo, Matsuhisa trained under a traditional sushi chef for seven years following high school before setting off on a journey that brought him to locations ranging from Peru and Argentina to Alaska and eventually California. In each of these locations he studied the local fare, borrowing certain culinary elements and ingredients he thought would blend well with his Japanese preparations. While in Lima, Peru, Matsuhisa found that many familiar Japanese ingredients were not available. Soon his artistic vision came into focus and began to bear fruit as he was forced to experiment and draw out what he needed for each dish from unusual ingredients. This opened him up to the endless possibilities of melding flavors from around the world that were never previously integrated. His time in Peru was enormously influential for Matsuhisa, as it was there that he developed his now world-famous fusion of Japanese/Peruvian cooking.

Still in his 30s, the inventive chef opened his first restaurant, Matsuhisa, in Beverly Hills in 1987. Almost immediately his star rose as Matsuhisa quickly became a world-renowned establishment. In 1993 The New York Times named it one of the top ten restaurant destinations in the world. Following the massive success of his first restaurant, Matsuhisa opened his second, Nobu, in New York City in 1994, at the beginning of Tribeca’s culinary renaissance. Today, new residents settling into a Tribeca condo might suppose the neighborhood was already packed with must-try eateries by the early ’90s. In fact, however, the early arrival of the Nobu restaurant in the area was one of the key factors behind it becoming a foodie paradise.

Nobu was met with equal acclaim and showered with numerous prestigious awards. After two unprecedented back-to-back successes, Matsuhisa’s collection of establishments grew exponentially. Soon he opened Nobu locations in London (1997), Tokyo (1998), Las Vegas (1999), and Malibu (1999), as well as Nobu Next Door in New York, a second Matsuhisa in Aspen (1997), and Ubon in Los Angeles (1999). Within just 12 years, Matsuhisa opened nine incredibly successful restaurants. Today, Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa is essentially a one-man empire as he now has 32 restaurants on five continents. As a young expat living in Peru, the unconventional chef worried at times that his experiments might fall flat with patrons. Clearly his talent for discovering new and unusual combinations of ingredients, and his willingness to risk his reputation on them, instead turned out to be a recipe for success.