Global cuisineGuide to Dubai

AN INTERVIEW WITH JAPANESE-ARGENTINIAN CHEF CRISTIAN GOYA

CHEF CRISTIAN GOYACHEF CRISTIAN GOYA

HEAD CHEF AT KAYTO, JUMEIRAH AL NASEEM TALKS ABOUT HIS INSPIRATIONS

Q. What is your first memory of food? Any particular dishes or stories behind them that have influenced you in some way?

A. Food is something that has been important to me since I was a child. As the son of hard-working parents, I took the responsibility of cooking on a daily basis to support my family and so I spent a lot of time in the kitchen from an early age. Through cooking for my family, I found pleasure through the necessity for freshly made food.

Today, I have precious and unforgettable memories of my parents and grandparents coming together to celebrate and host huge gatherings and barbeques. For me personally, I directly relate food (and cooking in general) to gathering loved ones in one place – the moment of eating and sharing as a family was so special to me!

Umi Shio pop-up concept by Cristian Goya

Q. What did home cooking mean to you growing up?

A. I’ve always enjoyed eating and learning how to cook while growing up. It wasn’t until I moved out and lived on my own did I realise just how good the food was at home. 

Q. How did you get into cooking? What inspired you?

A. I found cooking as interesting as it was enjoyable. As a kid, I liked to observe and learn new techniques in the kitchen, and I still have that curiosity today. When my mother was busy, I would watch cooking programmes and try to replicate all the dishes.

My grandparents left Japan with nothing. Their courage, as they made the long journey to Argentina by boat, has always been a source of inspiration and strength to me.

Q. You come from two different cultures. Tell us how these cultures have influenced you as a person as in your career?

A. Growing up with the fusion between two very different and distinct worlds, I was inspired by the melding of the two cultures and the Nikkei cuisine that derived as a result. My grandparents established a horticulture business upon arrival in South America and became part of a growing Japanese immigrant community. Keen for my brother and I to learn more about Japan and my heritage, they sent us to school in the city of Okinawa each summer.

Q. How important was it for you to learn about your Japanese heritage, growing up as second-generation Argentinian?

A. I have kept close to my Japanese ancestry. I consider myself a proud Argentinian and Buenos Aires is my city. However, my family is from Okinawa, a Japanese island in the East China Sea where citizens were renowned for their gentle temperament, and life was relaxed and tranquil. Okinawa is famed for having the longest life expectancy in the world, partly due to the environment but also to the abundance of fresh products and a culture of quality food. I believe I carry this spirit of calm into my cooking and into my kitchen. I’m also grateful for my mother who sent me to a Japanese school, and even took me to Japan to learn the language and culture.

Q. Tell us about your highlights in your career?

A. My culinary journey started off in 2004 at 17 years old, when I decided to go to cooking school. I worked at Dashi, one of the best Japanese sushi restaurants in Buenos Aires and then joined Osaka, a celebrated Peruvian/Japanese restaurant. I wanted to challenge myself further and moved to Los Angeles, USA, and enrolled in the Sushi Chef Institute to learn more about the art of Sushi. I’ve also gained tremendous experience by working in Paris and the French Alps. I made my move to the UAE in 2018 and joined Jumeirah Group as Head Chef at Summersalt, Jumeirah Al Naseem, and I am currently the Head Chef at KAYTO, Jumeirah Al Naseem.

Q. How would you describe your cooking style?

A. I like to use simple techniques. My go-to cuisine is Japanese food, particularly rice dishes, as well as ceviche, and my favourite recipe is Salmon Tataki with sweet and sour sauce.

Q. Tell us about your most recent work in Dubai? How did KAYTO come to life?

A. My food journey that brought me to Dubai, in particular at Jumeirah Group started off in 2018 where I joined as the Head Chef at Summersalt. I was tasked with creating a fusion of Japanese/Latin American dishes, and in 2019 I joined the opening of Kayto as the Head Chef. The concept was exciting to me as it revolved around creating an exceptional experience that was dear to my heart and true to my culinary background, through an exotic blend of Peruvian and Japanese flavours.

Q. What’s the vision behind it?

A. The vision is to bring together the taste of cuisines from two distinct cultures – to take influences from both and combine them to create a unique experimental cooking style.

Umi Shio pop-up concept by Cristian Goya

Q. What is so special about the menu and venue?

A. The menu features everything from fresh ceviche, special sushi nigiri and rolls, to flavourful meat, fish, and seafood dishes – all showcasing authentic Asian and Latin American flavours and cooking techniques. The restaurant atmosphere is cosy and has stunning views of Burj Al Arab Jumeirah.

Q. What ingredients do you use the most? 

A. I use a lot of miso, its complex taste makes dishes stand out. 

Q. What ingredients do you use the most? 

A. I use a lot of miso, its complex taste makes dishes stand out. 

Q. How important is locally sourced food?

A. It’s very important. Locally grown provides various health benefits and is more sustainable.

Q. What’s your favourite top three dishes at KAYTO and why?

A. I cannot possibly choose, but if I had to it would probably be the Nasu Miso, Seabass Ceviche and Wagyu Beef. They’re my favourite mainly for their simplicity and delicious taste.

Q. Argentinian and Japanese food are best known for its meat and seafood. What about the meat dishes/best seafood options?

A. The Wagyu Beef Tataki is a great option and can also be served using three sauces that make this dish even more delicious: Argentinian Chimichurri, Peruvian Anticuchera, and Truffled Teriyaki. For seafood, we have the Miso Marinated Seabass with Peruvian Yellow Pepper Rice – it sure is the perfect match.

Q. How relevant do you think vegan food is in the industry?

A. It is important to keep vegan customers in mind since there is a growing number who follow a strict food diet and avoid all meat products. We need to be ready to serve them delicious food accordingly.

Q. Any hopes or dreams you wish to accomplish next?

A. For now, I’m living in the moment and very grateful for everything that I have achieved and currently have.  I am hoping to see better days and for the world to gain strength to get through this rough period.

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