Kei Kobayashi: The Sense of Detail
The gray and discreet facade of the three-star Kei restaurant in Paris in no way suggests the extent of the experience awaiting visitors: A moment out of time, where the teams in the kitchen and dining room coordinate in an enchanting ballet to make customers dance to the rhythm of seven-millimeter dishes.
The dining room is intimate, with barely 30 seats. Any action around the table is revealed in the image of the chef: Framed and precise. Nothing is left to chance and the spirit of Kei Kobayashi shines through at all levels: From the decor to the atmosphere and ultimately, on the plates. “When I stopped comparing myself to other chefs and understood that the real competition was with myself, the stars aligned,” he explains. The secret of his consecration lies, according to him, in the quest for singularity and a relentless search for the best version of oneself, expressed through one’s cuisine. Timing is also very important in cooking and tasting. The arrival – to the minute – of customers is noted in the kitchen and the rate at which meals are sent is carefully calculated.
“When I stopped comparing myself to other chefs and understood that the real competition was with myself, the stars aligned”
Convey an emotion
The transmission of a striking emotion constitutes a promise that the chef wants to keep individual, for each client. And to do this, each ingredient is carefully selected according to the season. Climate change is also impacting this process and the chef is fully aware of this. He respects the rhythm of nature and regularly consults the weather to adapt his menu to the tastes of the products and the general tasting conditions. The kitchens, built longitudinally, leave little room for chance and require great team coordination. The chef can place himself at the end of the chain, check all the dishes that come out of the kitchen and send back those that have not reached perfection.
"The secret of consecration lies in a relentless search for the best version of oneself"
The ingredients of a three-star plate
If Japan is discreetly reflected in a touch of Shiso at the turn of an amuse-bouche, through the “Oh! so surprising” cooking of an Iberian pig in tataki or even in the surprising but pleasant combination of a hay-smoked lobster with round amber sake on the palate, chef Kobayashi's cuisine remains resolutely French. As a skillful virtuoso, the chef intends to mobilize all the senses of the visitor and make him find a balance in the fifth taste: Umami. His signature dish, “Garden of crunchy vegetables, Scottish smoked salmon, arugula mousse and lemon emulsion,” is a good illustration of this principle. Its airy and floral visualization must first be contemplated. The customer is then invited to destroy the work of art by mixing until a creamy consistency is obtained, while smelling the odors that emerge from it to the sound of the crackling of the foam, before finally tasting it. "You have to destroy visual harmony to rebuild taste harmony," explains Louis-Marie Robert, Head Waiter. However, Chef Kei Kobayashi's quest for excellence knows no bounds: "Seeking to obtain three stars represents a great pressure that only increases when the objective is reached. To keep them we must constantly reinvent ourselves, without ceasing to seek perfection.”