What are your earliest memories of being interested in food?
I remember sitting at the kitchen table after school and my mum preparing dinner when I was doing my homework.I loved being surrounded by those cooking smells so I guess subliminally it triggered a desire to work with food. No one else in my family was a chef or had any desire to be one so I’m not really sure where else it came from. I was pretty insistent that it’s what I wanted to do as a job and my father sent me off one summer to his friend’s restaurant to work and asked that they really push me. I guess he wanted me to get this notion out of my head and get a “proper” job. He gave up trying to dissuade me when I came back after the summer even more excited and eager to be a chef. Now he supports me 100%.
What would you say has inspired your cooking the most?
There were many different factors. The nouvelle cuisine days when I started out and the scary days of fusion, my German Michelin starred training and then my time in Australia which really suited my style of eating and dining out. My main influence of course was Japan.
Describe your culinary style…
Well I love cooking, I just really still enjoy it and I cook a lot at home now. I also enjoy entertaining and like the food to be all be prepped before people arrive so that I can enjoy spending time with my guests. I think that the hospitality side of enjoying a meal is a trait that strongly echoes through my restaurants.Of course with Zuma and Roka my style is Japanese – authentic but not traditional and with Oblix, well it’s simply dishes I love to eat.
You are appearing at Who’s Cooking Dinner? 2016, can you tell us a bit about what you will be cooking?
I’ll be cooking some great Zuma dishes – the fish section of the menu will have scallops thinly sliced with Yuzi dressing (its a light citrus dressing) then a selection of sushi but the fish used for this will be decided on the evening for the as it’s dependent on what’s available. The sashimi however will be made with lobster which has such a sweet and defined flavour so it works really well. Then on to roasted king crab with a little heat from green chilies and Japanese Kobe beef with mushrooms and black truffles. There will also be grilled asparagus and sweet potato. To finish, I’ll serve the Zuma dessert platter. It’s not usually on the Zuma menu, but quite the spectacle to end the evening. We also have some beautiful wines and sakes to accompany the meal.
Where did your inspiration for this come from?
I wanted to offer something exceptional, something really decadent for this most special of dinners so I have chosen the dishes best suited to that, which celebrates some incredible ingredients. This isn’t your every day meal, but it is for an inspirational charity and it’s important that those who have contributed are treated.
What are your most indispensable ingredients?
For me it has to be really good soy, some ponzu and yuzu.
What kind of experience do you aim to give guests at your restaurant?
The Zuma experience and a great night out. The dishes are created to share so it will be a fun night sharing some wonderful food and drinks with friends.
What would you say has been the most memorable moment in your culinary career so far?
Opening that first Zuma in London. Looking back, it might’ve seemed like there was some sort of master plan but the global expansion was never on the cards at that point. The vision for Zuma – what it would look like, taste, sound and even feel like – the whole idea had been in my head for years, even the name. For that to become reality, which was 14 years ago now and the feeling that I had having finally done it, well I will always cherish that time and that memory.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self, starting out a career in the world of food?Listen to your father haha…. No for me it’s absolutely the life I would of chosen. I wouldn’t do a thing differently because every person and every element of my Zuma dream has all contributed to where I am now and that is pretty happy actually.
What’s next for you/Whats projects do you have lined up?
At the moment we are opening in Palazzo Fendi in Rome which can be found in a beautiful location in the historic part of Rome. We are also relocating Zuma Istanbul to a new part of the city which allows us the space we desperately need. Then it’s on to Vegas where we’re planning an opening for 2017…So not a lot really!
What is your guilty pleasure?
A good burger. The thing is, when you eat a lot of Japanese food especially if you are in the middle of an opening and eating at the restaurant constantly whether that be with family or tasting the dishes for quality control, the weirdest thing happens and you get this crazy craving for a burger and fries! When we opened New York we made regular trips to Shake Shack.
What restaurant is currently at the top of your list to dine at?
Heston is a good friend and I haven’t been to his new Fat Duck yet so I’m really curious to see what he has done there.
To find out more about Chef Becker’s culinary career, click
Find out more information about the Who’s Cooking Dinner? 2016event, along with the full chef line uphere…