Chef cooks up storm in Japan

08 April 2019

A Celtic Manor Resort chef has been cooking up a storm in Japan.

Simon Crockford, the Wales National Chef of the Year in 2017, has been serving hungry shoppers from his pop-up restaurant as part of a British Fair in a major department store.

Crockford welcomed hundreds of diners over a six-day celebration of British cuisine and culture at the JR Takashimaya department store in the city of Nagoya.

Originally from Pembrokeshire, Crockford oversees all seven restaurants as the executive restaurant chef at Celtic Manor and enjoyed taking a taste of Wales to Japan - including the ever-popular Welsh cakes.

He said: “It was a fantastic week joining other British chefs in Nagoya where we each had a section to produce our own traditional dishes. After welcoming department store managers to Celtic Manor in February and giving them a menu tasting, they chose for me to cook a roast beef sandwich and a Welsh cake.

“I had hoped to be cooking something a bit more adventurous but it turned out to be the perfect choice for the theme of the British Fair and the shoppers loved it. 

“I had one Japanese chef and 10 service staff to help me cook and deliver the food. There was a bit of a language barrier to start with but they were all fantastic and by the end, they were shouting out the orders to me in perfect English.

“We served about 100 of the roast beef sandwiches every day but it was the Welsh cakes that really went down a storm, we probably did about 200 Welsh cakes every day. It was mostly female shoppers and they loved the afternoon tea feel to having a cup of tea and a Welsh cake.”    

As well as passing on some British cooking techniques and introducing diners to some new tastes, Crockford also encountered a lot of interest in visiting Wales and the Celtic Manor Resort among the locals. There was no escaping his smiling face as he featured on a giant billboard promoting his pop-up menu in the shopping centre concourse.

He said: “It was a fantastic opportunity to promote Welsh hospitality and our Celtic Manor branded section certainly drew a lot of interest from the shoppers who wanted to know all about the hotel and our restaurants and facilities. It was my first visit to Japan and I was also keen to sample their cuisine.

“It was some of the best food I have ever tasted and my favourites were the ramens and all the fantastic broths. I’ll definitely be taking some inspiration back to our Pad Asian restaurant at Celtic Manor and I’m sure we’ll have a ramen dish on the next menu.”

Following his successful work trip, Crockford will be returning to Japan for a dream holiday in September and October when he will be watching Wales play in the Rugby World Cup.

“My brother lives in Hong Kong so we’ve been planning this for quite a while,” he said. “It’s strange to think I’ll be going back so soon but it will be great to spend more time enjoying Japanese food and culture now that I’ve had a taste of it.

“Excitement is already building for the Rugby World Cup and I’m sure Japan are going to be fantastic hosts for the tournament. Welsh fans are going to have a great time.”    

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