18 December 2023
Crafeat: Tasting the Tradition of Japanese Artistry and Cuisine, Part 1
Found in the gastronomic heart of Kanazawa City, Crafeat offers a unique fusion of lacquerware excellence and culinary artistry. Here, Chef Okumura's skillfully prepared Japanese dishes are beautifully complemented by the prestigious Wajima lacquerware, a celebrated craft of Ishikawa Prefecture. At Crafeat, experiencing Wajima lacquerware is more than just a feast for the eyes. Guests are invited to immerse themselves in a deeply traditional experience, where they can also use these exquisite pieces for dining, engaging all their senses.
In our two-part blog series, we first reveal the creative genius behind the eatery Crafeat, through an enlightening conversation with Taya Takahiro.
Following this, our second installment will whisk you away on a culinary adventure, showcasing a washoku dining experience enriched with intriguing stories and insights from Chef Okumura.
Delve into the narratives of both the creators and their creations, as they bring the essence of Ishikawa's esteemed craftsmanship to life, one dish and one story at a time.
- The Crafeat Story
- Partner in Cuisine
- Crafeat's Canvas
- A Taste of What's Next: Culinary Adventures Await
The Crafeat Story
As the tenth-generation successor of Taya Shikkiten, Taya embraced the role of a nushiya, a term used since the Edo period (1603 CE - 1867 CE). This term initially referred to lacquerware vendors who handled everything from the planning and designing to the actual crafting of lacquerware items. Following in his father's and grandfather's footsteps, he journeyed across Japan and overseas, dedicating most of the year to showcasing and selling their exquisite lacquerware.
However, the pandemic's unexpected stillness led Taya to a period of reflection on his family's legacy and on the lacquerware industry itself. Through deep introspection, he realized that truly igniting a passion for Wajima lacquerware involved inviting people to Kanazawa, allowing them to personally experience these exquisite creations.
Thus, in the summer of 2021, Crafeat opened its doors, offering a space where visitors were able to immerse themselves in a blend of ancient craftsmanship and Chef Okumura's modern spin on Japanese cuisine. Beyond a mere dining spot, Crafeat serves as an interactive gallery, fostering a deep connection between guests and the rich culture of Wajima lacquerware.
"The real beauty and practicality of Wajima lacquerware are best appreciated through actual use," Taya asserts. "We wanted to extend this experience to more people, and that led to the inception of Crafeat." Looking ahead, he said, "Our goal is to draw more people to Kanazawa and, hopefully, further to Wajima. We want people to immerse themselves not only in Wajima lacquerware but also in the rich tapestry of culture and heritage that Ishikawa has to offer.
Partner in Cuisine
In the heart of Crafeat's unique concept lies a partnership that blends Taya's vision with the culinary expertise of Chef Okumura. While Taya brings the tradition and art of Wajima lacquerware to the table, Okumura complements them with dishes that embody the essence of Ishikawa's flavors.
Taya, who has been spellbound by Okumura's kitchen artistry since their first meeting four years ago, knew immediately that he was the ideal culinary partner for Crafeat. "Okumura possesses a remarkable knack for breaking away from the conventional, both in his use of Wajima lacquerware and in his culinary styles," Taya tells us with admiration. Chef Okumura is a master at capturing the essence of the items and ingredients he uses. Together, Taya and Okumura forge a dining experience that is as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the palate.
As Chef Okumura prepared for the evening rush, we inquired what drives his creativity. "Inspiration comes from a tremendous amount of input. Continuous learning is key, whether it's about how lacquerware is crafted or stories of the farmers who grow the vegetables I use" he said.
His journey for a deeper understanding led him to a sake brewery in Noto, where he spent four months working as a kurabito before launching Crafeat. This hands-on experience in the brewery taught him the finer points of sake brewing, like the intricacies of yeast fermentation and the impact of rice sugar. These insights into "unforeseeable factors" sharpened his culinary skills and also deepened his appreciation for the traditional craft of Wajima lacquerware.
On the long shelf behind the kitchen, an array of Wajima lacquerware, each piece meticulously chosen by Taya, is on display. The selection of the tableware and menu at Crafeat are Chef Okumura's domain. But Taya clarifies "Not every dish finds its home on Wajima lacquerware. Each dish pairs with the right piece. For beer, we prefer glass, and porcelain plates is the better choice for sashimi, at times." He adds, "My pledge, though, is to honor Ishikawa's artistry, be it Kutani ware or pieces graced with Kanazawa Gold Leaf. It's a rare delight to witness traditional crafts, local ingredients, and culture blending so harmoniously, as they do here in Ishikawa."
In front of the counter seats is a carefully designed open kitchen. From cooking to plating, every detail is visible to the guests. Seated here, you can witness Chef Okumura's skilled artistry unfold right before your eyes.
A Taste of What's Next: Culinary Adventures Await
In this culinary haven, Chef Okumura's inventive dishes are beautifully dressed in Taya's carefully chosen vessels. The duo's dedication to using local materials and ingredients remains steadfast, weaving a story of Ishikawa's heritage into every menu. That is the concept and hope, installed upon Crafeat.
Next, prepare to be captivated by the likes of sashimi artfully presented in a lacquerware treasure box and tempura elegantly served on a century-old lacquerware sake cup. These are just glimpses of the culinary adventures that await in our next article introducing Crafeat's menu, where tradition and creativity come together in a symphony of flavors.