Meet a generation of extraordinary chefs in Toyama, Japan, with “Food & Wine” former Editor-in-chief, Dana Cowin.


Traditional local pastry shells are served by chef Taniguchi from L’EVO as amuse-bouche filled with mackerel rillettes

About 2 hours away from Tokyo by the bullet train, Toyama is located in a beautiful bay and surrounded by steep mountains, both providing excellent and diverse seafood, produce and meat. The abundance of pristine water is also the secret behind the region excellent saké.

Former editor-in-chief of “Food & Wine” magazine Dana Cowin visited Toyama last spring and discovered a new generation of exceptional chefs. They all cook in different styles, Japanese, French and Italian, yet work closely together, sharing information about local ingredients and cooking techniques. This community of outstanding talents share the same passion for their Toyama region. Just like Michel Bras dedicated his cuisine to honor his Aubrac region by cooking with local ingredients, all three chefs focus on creating exceptional cuisine using ingredients produced and found in and around Toyama.

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Mountain vegetables, bottarga (cured mullet roe) rice cake, Japanese spiny lobster from Sato in Kokura

Bitter spring mountain vegetables


(Top) “Sansai” or mountain vegetables. (From left) “uni” (sea urchin), mountain vegetables, yellow sauce made with mustard, white miso and local vinegar, green “Kinome”sauce made with “sansho” pepper leaves.

The northern part of Kyushu island, in SouthWest Japan, has been a popular gourmet destination for decades. From blowfish to bamboo shoots, abalone to wild vegetables, restaurant Sato in Kokura serves a fine cuisine exclusively using local and seasonal ingredients.  Author, editor, radio host and former editor in chief of Food & Wine magazine, Dana Cowin, visited chef Sato for a late spring lunch. (Blow fish dishes have been featured in a previous post.)

We are on the cusp of two seasons now, so today I’ll serve “Sansai”(mountain vegetables) and bamboo shoots (“Takenoko”). 

P1120269.JPGGreens Sato Continue reading

Poisonous blowfish and other local wonders from Kokura, on Kyushu island, at restaurant Sato with Dana Cowin.


Chef Sato Yoshimi (left) and staff grilling fava beans, bamboo shoots, blowfish milt on skewers and Shirauo fish.

Michel Bras never left his Aubrac plateau in Southern France, for the traditional chef apprenticeship at starred restaurants in Paris or Lyon. Instead, he trained with his mother at her restaurant in Laguiole, before opening his own just outside his village, in Le Suquet. Ever since, his cuisine has been all about honoring his region. Likewise, Japanese chef Sato Yoshimi chose to open his eponymous restaurant in his hometown Kokura, and dedicates his culinary skills to bring the best out of local ingredients. “Most of the seafood, meat and produce I use come from about a 10 miles (15 km) range! Kokura has so many excellent ingredients to offer, I want to provide them in the best possible way”.

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Former [Food & Wine] editor in chief Dana Cowin meets Japanese chefs with a Bras sense

Chef Sato Yoshimi from “Sato” restaurant in Kokura, with Ise ebi (Japanese spiny lobster) and bamboo shoots from Ouma known to be the finest in Japan.

Michel Bras has been traveling to Japan since the 1980’s and even opened his only restaurant abroad on the Northern island of Hokkaido. In 2005 he launched a full line of cooking knives and cookware of the highest quality with KAI, a Japanese expert of the finest blades. Japanese food culture has been inspiring his cuisine and his exploration of tools for many years, as well as his son Sébastien.

In a series of episodes, and through Dana Cowin’s eyes, we will share with you some aspects of Japanese cuisine which  have been inspiring Bras, and vice-versa… With over 20 years of experience as editor in chief of Food & Wine magazine, she is known for her exceptional knowledge and experience of culinary culture throughout the world.


Dana Cowin having a Soto Zen vegetarian meal at Kasuisai Temple

This spring, she travelled through three different regions of Japan: Kokura in Kyushu island, Toyama on the Japan Sea coast, and Shizuoka on the Pacific side. She met several outstanding chefs whose skills and philosophy are dedicated to their regions and their seasons.


Toyama’s characteristic ingredients coming into a beautiful plate at ”L’évo” near Toyama 


Dana Cowin with Kasuisai temple chef Koganeyama Tenzo


Dana Cowin with Chef Fujii HIronori from restaurant “Fujii” in Toyama


Local stripe shrimp and herbs at “Himawari Shokudou” in Toyama

Dana has also shared her culinary trip on her radio show and podcast Heritage on tour :                                                                                                                                                                    


Michel Bras recipe – Mother’s Day Special: Honey & Butter Apple Compote

Here is a sweet and easy way to share your love with your mom on her special day. Let the fruit of love get slowly soaked with honey and butter, for a warm and mellow celebration.


This is a delicious and old fashioned way to cook caramel that I just love… You won’t regret taking your time and letting the apples slowly absorb the honey & butter caramel, with that fragrant hint of vanilla!

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Aligot and the Bras : a family thread


Aligot is a regional dish prepared with mashed potatoes, butter and a local fresh cheese known as “tome”. In a traditional style, aligot is cooked in a big cauldron over the fire in “burons”, Aubrac typical shepherd’s huts. Its elastic texture is stretched with a large, paddle-like spoon. Using tome cheese, which should be fresh but not too much, gives the unique texture that makes this dish so special.

Aligot has always been served at Bras restaurant to all customers, with the main dish. And for many years, it was Michel’s mother, Angèle, who was in charge in the kitchen to prepare it. As former cook and owner of auberge Lou Mazuc, where she trained young Michel, she knew exactly how to transform plain and simple ingredients into this delicious dish.


After she retired, Michel then Sébastien, continue to serve aligot to every guest. As Sébastien explains, aligot is a symbol of Aubrac culture and its delicate texture is the perfect companion for an unforgettable meal.


A simple yet perfect combination : Potato salad with white truffles by Michel Bras himself !


The flavor of white truffles is so delicate, you don’t want to lose it preparing dishes that are too elaborate. Michel Bras suggests this easy recipe, so simple yet so delicious, to enjoy their subtle aroma at their best. The simplicity of plain potatoes will enhance the subtle aroma of white truffles. You will also enjoy the contrast between the textures. Continue reading