• Hotel Story

Chef Q&A: Akira Takahashi,
Yokohama Royal Park Hotel Executive Chef

Exlusive interview with Akira Takahashi,
Yokohama Royal Park Hotel Executive Chef

Q: What are the features of the Yokohama Royal Park Hotel?

The Royal Park Hotels chain includes three full-service hotels, in Hakozaki, Sendai, and Yokohama. The one in Yokohama particularly values the feel of resort living and the urban environment, and has features to delight guests from all areas, from metropolitan to rural. Of all its features, the hotel’s greatest selling point is the view from the Sirius Sky Lounge on the 70th fl oor. The lounge serves a range of dishes that provide beautiful and Instagrammable appearance alongside great taste, to appeal to female diners. On the 68th fl oor, there is a trio of restaurants, French, Japanese, and Chinese, all vying to provide the best fl avor. Flora, on the fi rst basement level, off ers a universal menu, including halal, vegan, and other options, which is also available from room service.

Q: As an executive chef, what do you strive for every day?

What I always tell the chefs is that they must never serve half-hearted dishes, thinking "this is probably good enough". That attitude leads to complaints and degrades the restaurant's reputation. I instruct them that if they are not personally satisfi ed with a dish, they must make it again before serving, even if they must apologize to the customer.

Q: Please tell us the story behind the universal restaurant “Flora” that recently opened.

The World Cup (2019) and the Olympics (2020) are coming up, so we started refi ning the concept four or fi ve years ago. By now, foreign guests are around 30% of the customers using the Yokohama Royal Park Hotel. So one reason is that we’d like to raise that proportion. We were certain that the halal market would grow in future, and we wanted to compete in a way that was diff erent from others. We also wanted to raise awareness of Flora and increase its sales, so we made a very deliberate shift in its type of business.

Q: How difficult is it to get halal certification and run a halal restaurant?

We got certified by the Japan Halal Foundation. All our dishes are halal compliant, but we serve alcohol in the form of beverages, so the content of our certification is "all food halal". We were a bit nervous about operations at first, but there's no problem now. Halal customers themselves are aware of our service, so in most cases they understand if we explain in English.

Q: Other than halal, Flora can support gluten free, vegetarian, and vegan needs. How do you go about developing menus and recipes?

I devise the Grand Menu, but in order to serve a wide range of dishes, I have each head chef work on new menu development. In future, we want to add new menu items in addition to the classics.

Q: How do you go about sourcing the ingredients for a universal restaurant?

We check all the ingredients and condiments used at Flora with the Japan Halal Foundation in advance, and then we buy approved items through our purchasing department. Most of the ingredients we use are local from Kanagawa. We want our guests from overseas to enjoy universal cuisine that uses a wide variety of delicious ingredients.

Q: What does "omotenashi" (hospitality) mean to you?

At this hotel, we have Japanese, French, and Chinese restaurants and a teppanyaki grill, so that we can serve many people. Adding a universal restaurant to that lineup lets us serve our cuisine to everyone. To me, "omotenashi" means welcoming people from around the world with the delicious cuisine of the Yokohama Royal Park Hotel.