Q & A with Zuma's Creator and Chef Rainer Becker + Fun GIF Images From "Wabi Sabi"

July 19, 2012 at 12:30pm

What was the concept behind Zuma?

My first experiences in Japan sparked the idea. I arrived in Tokyo working for the Hyatt [hotel] as Executive Chef overseeing their five different restaurants. It was my first time in Japan and although I was aware of the cuisine, the ingredients, etc, it was a completely different experience living and cooking there. My philosophy at that time was to bring the cuisine to a much wider audience. To do that I knew I had to make the flavors more robust. My idea for Zuma was always to create a modern Japanese menu, but one that respects tradition.


What made you want to found a restaurant around this concept?

Every chef has their own personality, their own sense of what they enjoy in food, what food they like to cook and present to their customers. We all want to provide the best tasting food we possibly can. As a chef and restaurateur my vision encompassed the whole dining experience. Zuma simply has all the elements I enjoy. I like to dine in a very casual, informal manner and enjoy the company I am with. I like to share dishes and enjoy great tasting food and have fun. For me that’s Zuma. The ambiance, the energy, the surroundings––its all part of a picture, it all combines together to create Zuma’s style.


What did you want to evoke in the restaurant’s design?

An essential component of Zuma is that its surroundings are inspired by the four elements of earth, fire, water and air. The esteemed Japanese design company Super Potato were commissioned to materialize the vision. Their designer, Noriyoshi Muramatsu, quickly developed an emotional attachment to the project and used his expertise, both spiritually and aesthetically. Amid his symbolic design, he introduced calming water features and used antique pine, recycled from old Japanese houses. He believes the wood to hold the goodwill of the previous owners. It took over three months of travel and research to locate the exact granite and different woods that were ultimately selected for the project.


Why has Zuma been so successful?

I had the whole idea of Zuma very strong in my mind.  I knew the design I wanted, the food style, the concept and the bar were integral elements of my vision. Opening a restaurant is a particularly crazy time with so many people and ideas and opinions involved—it is really important to stick to your beliefs.  You have to keep control and rein in ideas to be true to what you want to do. If I had to pass on one message, it would be detail, detail, detail.


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