Chef interviews

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Jun Tanaka

Interviewed February 2009

Jun Tanaka is the talented chef at The Ninth, after having bean head chef of Pearl in Holborn for several years. He has had a long career in some of the most prestigious kitchens in London, and is a regular on TV these days.

Q – How long have you been cooking professionally?

I started cooking in 1991.

Q – Where did you train to cook?

All my training has been here in London. I only ever wanted to work in Michelin starred restaurants and I was lucky enough to start at Le Gavroche. Over the next 10 years I worked at Chez Nico, Les Saveurs, The Capital, Marco Pierre White The Restaurant and The Square.

Q – How would you describe your style of cooking?

The restaurants that I have worked in are all quite classically French but I prefer to eat food that is lighter and more contemporary. This is reflected in my style of cooking.

Q – Is there a secret for a successful restaurant?

I don't believe that there is one magic formula that you can apply to create a successful restaurant. It is different in every case, that is why so many of them fail. It is essential to know and understand what works for you.

Q – Do you have a “signature dish” or favourite dish you enjoy cooking?

I don't have a signature dish as I don't believe in keeping dishes on for too long. On this current menu I enjoy cooking the scallops with ginger, crisp pork and rhubarb tart.

Q – Do you have a favourite ingredient?

I look forward to produce that are only available for short periods, I always feel exicted when the Morel season is about to start or when the first game birds are shot. I believe you appreciate them more when they are not always available. You wouldn't want Christmas every day !

Which restaurant do you most enjoy eating at on your night off?

I do most of my eating out on a Sunday when the restaurant is closed. I love Arbutus and La Petite Maison. Both restaurants have a relaxed atmosphere, the food is elegantly simple and incredibly tasty. After work on a Saturday I can usually be found in HK diner in Chinatown.

What is your most interesting or fun experience from your time in restaurants?

I guess with hindsight working for Marco was one of the highlights. I wouldn't have called it a fun experience and if you had asked me back then I would have said that I was in hell, but looking back, I have some fantastic stories!

What would be your “last request” dish?

It would have to be something cooked by my mother, a bit of a cliche but true! She makes a fantastic Japanese curry!

Is there another chef that you most admire?

Marco Pierre White.

Any advice you would give to someone wanting to become a chef?

You only need 2 qualities to make it as a chef. A true passion and love of food and and real determination.

Any final thoughts you’d like to add?     

My first book 'Simple to Sensational' comes out in May

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