Working in Tokyo, 2 Star Restaurant. Chef said I was slow

Joined Sep 27, 2018
Hey fellow Chefs,

This will be a bit of a long post but here it goes. I'm originally from Canada and on a working holiday visa in Tokyo for 1 year.

I was working at a 1 star restaurant for the first 6 months here and now at a 2 star, I'll work here until my Visa is up pretty much.

Just a little background, my father has owned a mediterranean restaurant since I was born so pretty much grew up in the business, was working for him since I was 16 and then moved to a few French restaurants afterwards. His restaurant is family/casual so when I went to work in the French fine dining restaurants I got my ass kicked because it was on a different level in regards to plating, mis en place, precision, etc…

So when I entered this 2 star restaurant I was put on the hot station right away with a dude who's been there for just over a year. I forgot to mention I speak Japanese at a business level so I can communicate okay but it's still obviously not the same working in an English speaking kitchen. Its difficult enough when entering a new kitchen because you have to learn where every single thing belongs (plates, pots, pans, seasoning, etc…) but in Japan, they are a stickler for rules and organization (this deserves a whole other article in itself).

So basically, the guy who was supposed to be training me on the station, was instead pretty much doing everything himself but would explain the mis en place, recipes, etc…

now the kicker here is that I wasn't actually doing anything other than watching, a couple garnish knife cuts, and setting him up for the next course and so on. However, I'm the type of person who needs to actually do the work from start to finish in order to learn it. To just watch and then not be able to do it not only seemed condescending but a waste of time (he literally wanted me to watch him clean the backsplash walls when we were tearing down so I can “do it properly”)

So long story short, the chef said that I would switch stations and I asked him why? And he said because I was slow. Now I've been told by other chefs that I'm quite fast and I pride myself on my speed, once I get familiar with my station and the dishes that is. However I feel that I wasn't even given a chance to do just that, get familiar with everything, it was 5 days at this point….so I'm bewildered as to how he comes up with this conclusion after me not being allowed to actually jump in and do the work but just watch.

Anyways I felt I had to get this off my chest and who better than this community. Thank you for reading this rant.

What are your opinions on this situation? Also if I didn't clarify anything please let me know!


Staff member
Joined Jun 11, 2001
I think, if you don't ask, you won't be given the chance. At your new station I would ask for the chance, something small, then larger in scope.
Joined Jun 11, 2018
My first thought is that you're probably doing okay, but instead of dealing with the language barrier, they're just using that as an excuse to put you on a less intensive station. I don't know this for sure, obviously. I've never seen or heard what it's like cooking in one of their kitchens. If that is the case, it's their loss. End of the day, you're giving it 100%, and that's all you can do :p
Joined Oct 10, 2005
Hate to say it, but you’re gonna hafta deal with racism sooner or later. I had to deal with it as the only Caucasian dude in a 500 rm hotel kitchen in Singapore back in the 90’s. And back in the ’80’s the Swiss would treat the non Swiss-German speakers completely different from the locals. Very different....

Me? On the plus side you have a gig in a 2 star place in Tokyo, regardless of what station you work. I’d just smile and nod, work my a** off and use the experience to highlight my resume.
Joined Jun 5, 2018
There's a great movie, "jiro dreams of sushi" that you might want to watch. It might give you a bit of insight into the culture.
Joined Apr 5, 2017
..... see.... have to learn humiliation, ..... have to be grateful .... i strongly suggest to get acquainted with the culture so there will be a better understanding on how things work, ........of course outsiders will have a massive culture shock.... it's not as easy like in NA .... "when in rome...." .... and remember do not change rome just because one does not agree ;) keep rome the way it is.... "if it gets too hot in the kitchen...." ..... there's only two solution and i believe it's obvious. i suggest to watch more asian martial arts movie .... it might shed some light and better understanding. best of luck on your en devour, you know what's best. and no i'm not a professional chef. what your experiencing is just asian :)
Joined Sep 29, 2018
I think the cooking industry in Japan is quite different from what we are used to. In any way, I am sure a stint in one of Japan's top kitchens will be an invaluable experience, regardless of what stations you worked at.
Joined Mar 4, 2015
The comment about you being slow, don't it personally, but do learn from it.

If they want to show you a knife cut, don't just stand there and watch, pick up your knife too! Send that nonverbal communication of i'm going to do this too, especially if that is how you learn.

I always liked moving cooks around, especially if they are there on a work visa for a short amount of time. I want them to learn as much as possible.
Joined Jan 4, 2011
NO big deal. The guys in Japanese kitchens are really fast. Really fast. You're not one of them.

Could any of them do what You are really good at as fast as You?
Joined Sep 26, 2017
The Japanese way of learning stuff is different. You can be in a kitchen for years without ever getting to cook (just observing and cleaning).

The definition of slow can also be different (language barrier). Maybe you display too many wasted movements when you do things. Japanese chefs like everything to be streamlined and super efficient.
Joined Aug 26, 2016
Dude...they train for two years or more just to make rice...after watching someone else do it for a year...sooooo.....
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