Nobu Matsuhisa: famed chef credits luck for making him a household name

Chef Nobu Matsuhisa at Crown Perth Nobu. Picture: Andrew Ritchie
Chef Nobu Matsuhisa at Crown Perth Nobu. Picture: Andrew Ritchie

LUCK, it seems, is what Nobuyuki Matsuhisa believes made him the household name he is today.

Better known as Nobu, or by his eponymous chain of 32 celebrity-endorsed restaurants and eight family-owned Matsuhisa Restaurants, the Japanese chef acknowledged good fortune had perhaps played a leading role in his famed career.

“I’m a very lucky person because my team is very strong and it’s also a company where people are very happy to stay, so it means I don’t lose,” Matsuhisa said.

“And they’re all like family around me; they understand my philosophies and they like working toward the same goal. “I am just a very lucky person.” No doubt he is also referring to those fateful milestones in his life, starting from the age of 24 when he was plucked from seeming obscurity by a Japanese-Peruvian customer to start a sushi restaurant in Lima.

When things soured between him and this business partner, the restaurant went bust and he moved to Argentina and then eventually back to Japan.

But another generous offer quickly lured him back to the other side of the world once again.

And it was Anchorage, Alaska, that is conceivably the only reminder that Matsuhisa could be as unlucky as the rest of us.

After nine months of preparation and just weeks past opening, that restaurant burnt to the ground in the middle of the night.

“Bad luck means a bad experience but I learn from these experiences,” Matsuhisa said. “If not for Alaska, maybe I wouldn’t be here.

“I’m not smart but I learn from my mistakes and it’s all about experiences, and I appreciate all of it.”

Clearly, it was written in the stars that Matsuhisa was meant to cook for the world, and it took Hollywood actor and legend Robert De Niro making not one, but three offers over five years for it all to come to life.

Now with 40 restaurants, two hotels and counting, as they say, the rest is history.

Matsuhisa was in Perth over the weekend to celebrate his birthday – for the fifth time in Perth – this year turning 67.

Arriving on his birthday on Thursday from Melbourne, he was treated to a river cruise by special friends and close colleagues, from Matilda Bay to the Left Bank in Fremantle, during which samplings from his world-famous menu were served and plenty of bubbly was shared.

Ever the perfectionist, Matsuhisa spent the rest of the night in his Crown Perth restaurant.

“When I travel to the restaurants, I do tastings to understand how they make it, for a quality check,” he said. “Depending on the country and culture and the different tastes, there will be a difference.

“But for the signature dishes, I like them all over the world to have the same taste.”

He rounded off the weekend hosting an exclusive event at Nobu Perth.

The $295-per-head A Night with Nobu Matsuhisa dinner featured a menu inspired by WA produce, fused with the classic Japanese and South American flavours Nobu is famous for, and paired with Howard Park wines from the South-West.

Guests were served Donnybrook marron, Fremantle octopus, Margaret River wagyu beef, Lancelin dhufish and southern green-lip abalone alongside finger limes, truffles and plums sourced from across the state.

The night was hosted by Angela Tsun and guests enjoyed entertainment by award-winning singer and songwriter Danni Stefanetti.