Gordon Ramsay launched his first restaurant in Japan a few months ago. Here, his head chef Andy Cook talks to Emily Manson about the challenges of taking one of the world's most acclaimed restaurant brands to Tokyo's Conrad hotel
How are the restaurants doing?
Really well. Gordon's new on the block in Japan, but there's a lot of interest in him and we've had loads of publicity. The fine-dining restaurant is doing very well, although lunch is a bit slow as it's the middle of the summer, but dinner is picking up nicely. We're ahead of our expectations just two months down the line.
Does the food differ from that in the UK?
Not much. We've stuck with the real Ramsay and not toned the menus down for the Japanese market, except that fish does feature more because they have such an amazing variety here. Tsukiji fish market is on our doorstep, which gives us an amazing opportunity to get the highest quality and freshest produce.
How does the fish in Japan compare with the fish in Britain?
It's hard to compare it with Billingsgate. The types of fish are totally different over here. We've replaced bream with isaki, which is a kind of cross between bream and bass and works well. The scallops are enormous and tiger prawns are live. Other fish come stunned but not dead, so it's unbelievably fresh.
How have you found living in Japan?
I'm really enjoying it. I love what I do, and to be doing it under Gordon's name is great. I was worried Japan would be claustrophobic and too far away from home, but it's not at all.
How does it differ from living in the UK?
I lived in Hackney before coming to Tokyo - so it couldn't be more different. I'm getting used to the different culture, too - they're real workaholics. Staff turn up for work on time, and I have to tell them to go home. In England they'd be downstairs smoking fags!
What's been the hardest thing?
It's been a real eye-opener adapting to working for a big company like Conrad, having been with Gordon Ramsay Holdings. The processes are different, and it can be quite frustrating, but I've had to mature and learn to deal with upper management. Communication is also an issue, but we seem to be getting by OK. Customers here are very demanding and expect the highest standards, but that's a good thing as it keeps us on our toes.
What's your biggest achievement in Tokyo?
Setting this whole operation up from scratch.
What's your next challenge?
Christmas - and then the next three years. We're busy now because we're new and everyone wants to see what we're doing. The challenge is to keep busy and keep the customers coming back in two years' time.