Shojin Ryori and the master Toshio Tanahashi

December 01, 2016

For Toshio Tanahashi, Shojin-ryori cooking isn’t just a matter of technique, but a meditative experience which he hopes will lead towards greater understanding of the way we view our food and our dietary habits. It’s an entirely vegetarian Buddhist cuisine that was first introduced to Kyoto monasteries by the Chinese in the 7th century. Sho means “purify” and jin comes from the word for “advance.” In other words, it means to “move forward whilst respecting the old, and keeping oneself pure.” Only plants are used and 56 year-old Toshio is the master of his art, respected the world over by leading chefs such as René Redzepi, Ducasse or Alain Passard.

He will be cooking at Carousel in Marylebone (http://www.carousel-london.com/booking_toshio.html) from the 29/11/16 for the next 2 weeks before heading to Noma in Copenhagen. We highly recommend you go and see him as soon as possible as this is a very rare occasion and a truly unique opportunity for you to discover the myriad of possibilities to prepare and present vegetables.

In 1992, he opened Gesshinkyo, a highly-acclaimed Shojin-ryori restaurant in Tokyo where Christophe first visited him on a hot afternoon in September in 2004. The two connected instantly and Christophe came back that same evening to sample his most memorable meal featuring over 40 different fruits and vegetables in the most innovative ways imaginable. From then on Christophe wanted to learn as much as possible from Toshio and went back to visit him in Japan over the years. After closing Gesshinkyo in 2007, Toshio established the Zecoow Culinary Institute in Kyoto, where Christophe visited him to learn more about shojin. It is no coincidence that some a number of Botanic Lab creations take inspiration from Japanese cuisine and culture.

 

“Plants cannot speak, but we try to listen to their silent “voices.” Through persistent effort and daily encounters with vegetables, we come to grasp something essential about them. This message from the vegetables is then “translated” into shojin-ryori, which are in their best form for human consumption.” Emphasises Toshio Tanashi.

He has recently retired from teaching “culinary arts and design” (shokugei食芸) at the Kyoto University of Art and Design to pursue his own projects. His books include Shojin — Wonder of Vegetables (2003), and The Power of the Vegetable: The Time for Shojin is Now (2008). Recently, Tanahashi opened a small shop, Sankyo, in central Kyoto where he sells sesame tofu, which he makes fresh everyday.