Kaori Simpson, chef and patron of Edinburgh’s Harajuku Kitchen took the title of Oriental Chef of the Year at a reception held by the Asian Catering Federation on Wednesday night at the Palace of Westminster, London.
Kaori, the only Japanese restaurant chef / owner in Edinburgh was honoured alongside such culinary names as Michelin starred chefs Atul Kochhar, Vineet Bhatia and Karam Sethi and TV chef and one half of the Incredible Spice Men, Cyrus Todiwala.
The accolade follows the retention of the restaurant’s AA rosette and winning the title of UK’s Best Japanese Restaurant at The Asian Curry Awards 2016.
Kaori is no stranger to the Japanese restaurant game; as a 3rd generation restaurateur she follows in the footsteps of her Samurai great grandfather who opened his first restaurant when the Samurai was modernised in the Meiji era by the Emperor.
Her great grandfather opted to receive the estate and turned it over to a traditional fine dining Japanese restaurant. She grew up helping in her mother’s restaurants, learning the family recipes and eventually cooking in the kitchen.
After graduating with a Liberal Arts with Business Management degree from The University of Asia and the Pacific in Manila she worked in television for four years. This developed her interest in politics and travel, and she decided to study International Relations and Politics at Plymouth University, where she met her Scottish husband.
Moving to Edinburgh she went to cookery school to learn British and European cuisine, working in several restaurants including Michelin starred The Kitchin, before working in house as the private chef for the Consulate General of Japan where she cooked for reception parties and private dinners for guests, as well as doing cooking demonstrations to spread the awareness of authentic Japanese cooking.
When an opportunity to host a stall at the Stockbridge Market in Edinburgh, Kaori jumped at the chance, which led to her opening the award winning bistro in Tollcross and the rest is history!