“It’s a great challenge that we take up brilliantly”
The Boucher de Perthes high school in Abbeville (Somme) got to know the flavors of Japan for a meal in the canteen. With the help of Japanese chef Sugio Yamaguchi, the canteen teams created a menu for more than 1,000 people. A challenge they do not regret and which they will remember for a long time.
There was an air of Japan at the Boucher de Perthes high school in Abbeville this Thursday, May 11, 2023. Advised and assisted by the Japanese chef Sugio Yamaguchi, chef David Bellemere offered a menu directly from the land of the Rising Sun to the students who came to eat in the canteen.
When invited, the Japanese chef immediately accepted. “I really wanted to find out how it workshe explains. I have often been told that collective catering cuisine is not very good. I came a month ago here, I tasted what the chef was doing and it was good“.
Sugio Yamaguchi has familiarized himself with a catering made to order, every morning for noon, with more than a thousand covers to serve. “The chef asked me for advice on how to make Japanese dishes, things that could be done for 300 covers“, he explains, following an idea launched by the deputy headmaster of the establishment, Karine Ferte.
After several weeks of reflection and discussion, “we found a way to do something well organized and we found dishes that were easy to make“So on the menu, yakitoris, these chicken skewers with Japanese spring onion”which we eat a lot in Japan and which is very popular“. But also makis “with vegetables so that everyone can eat, because there are people who don’t like fish“.
And that’s not all. There were also gyozas, a type of ravioli halfway between Japan and China, Japanese curry, a natural broth made from chicken bones or even mochi. “The idea was to share and introduce students to Japanese dishes“, continues the chef Yamaguchi. To do this, it is on traditional, family and popular dishes in Japan that they counted, in particular, because they were “easy to make for many quantities“.
The French chef, for his part, made numerous attempts at home and in the kitchens of the canteen, accompanied by the valuable advice of his Japanese colleague, to succeed in developing a simple but appetizing menu.
This is not the first time that the Boucher de Perthes high school has taken up foreign cuisine. “We often do themed meals, but here, it’s true that we went to a higher range because we invited a chef who kindly wanted to help us in the preparation“, says chef David Bellemere.
But the organization and implementation of this menu was not easy. There were several constraints, in particular budgetary (each menu costs between 2 and 3 euros per head) and to find very specific products, because the suppliers “do not necessarily have all the products that make up Japanese cuisine“, like sake or mirin, for example.
It was necessary to develop the dishes, to think about them, to know how to shape them. When you make 300 servings, it’s not like making 10 servings at home. There, we have to think about how we are going to make our fish, how we are going to cook our fish. Luckily the chef was there to give us advice.
You also had to get used to Japanese cuisine. “The advice was on a sauce, in terms of taste…“Folding the gyozas was another challenge, always under the benevolent guidance of Chef Yamaguchi.”We had 300 gyozas, the first tricks, it wasn’t really thatadmits Chef Bellemère. But after a hundred, we started to find the right technique, it’s a great experience“.
Formatting constraints were also present, because in a collective kitchen, “it’s not the same as in a small kitchen. Afterwards, the other constraints are to bring the staff with us, but I have a great team“, rejoiced the chef.
Despite all these constraints, the students greatly appreciated the dishes offered to them. Some have even discovered Japanese cuisine for the first time and will not hesitate to repeat the experience elsewhere.
On the kitchen side, the French chef admits that it was a “Quite a challenge that was carried by our deputy headmaster, which we take up brilliantly with our whole team and with a lot of pleasure, but a lot of fatigue too!“.
Given that the establishment is accustomed to this kind of initiative, the idea of having a meal on the theme of Mediterranean cuisines begins to germinate. But it won’t be until next school year. Just to give the chef and his team time to breathe after these last sporting but rewarding days.
With Camille Di Crescenzo / FTV