Takeyuki Nakagawa

The death-defying chef
Wednesday , 05 March 2014
Takeyuki Nakagawa
© ITP Images
Ten years from now... I will still be a chef - cooking is my passion and I don't ever see myself doing anything else

Japanese cuisine is a thoroughly demanding form of art for even some of the globe’s most skilled chefs. However, preparation of a national delicacy Fugu (puffer fish) also requires intensive training and nerves of steel, given that the fish harbours a toxin 1,200 times more deadly than cyanide, which is concentrated in its ovaries and liver. Any carelessness in removing these organs can quite easily cost the diner his life. Chef Nakagawa is one of just 200 gourmet maestros in the world qualified to offer the dish, and whose dream of working outside Japan saw him take up residence in Dubai in 2010. Last year, he joined the culinary team at the Oberoi Hotel in the emirate to become the head chef at Umai, where he worked on the concept and the menu with equally meticulous precision.

To safely prepare Fugu, which is not yet available the Middle East, requires three years of rigorous training and a set of written exams so demanding that only a quarter pass the test. It is known as the dining equivalent of Russian roulette and chefs must eat the Fugu they have prepared before it’s deemed fit to serve to customers. Being able to make the dish is one of the highest achievements for any chef, who were traditionally bound to commit suicide by their own fish knife if their failure to prepare the dish correctly resulted in the death of a diner.