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Chef Kyohei Nishi, Bib Gourmand winner in the Michelin Guide, puts his heart into “Neki

2023.11.27

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A circle of friends connected by gootouchi! The “FIST BUMP” corner of the radio program “GRAND MARQUEE” features people who live and enjoy Tokyo in a relay format.

On September 21, Kyohei Nishi, chef of innovative French restaurant “Neki” in Kabuto-cho, was introduced by Shinichi Takahashi and Mikachu of “HUMAN NATURE”, a natural wine specialty store in Kabuto-cho. We interviewed Mr. Nishi, who also won a Bib Gourmand in the Michelin Guide Tokyo, about what inspired him to become a chef, his thoughts behind the name “Neki,” and the “songbook” he opened in Setagaya-Daita.

Bringing French Cuisine Culture Closer to Home

Celeina (MC): You have a great career as a chef.

Nishi: Thank you (laughs). My father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were all chefs. My family is a family of cooks, so it was like a natural progression for me.

Celeina: Have you been cooking since you were little?

Nishi: No, I didn’t want to be a chef or anything from the beginning, but when I was thinking about my career path, I kept seeing such dishes, so I thought this is what I wanted to do too.

Takano (MC): Was your father French as well?

Nishi: French or ……. A hotel. I do a lot of things in general in hotels.

Celeina: Wow. We cook at home too. However, there is a difference between cooking as a professional chef and cooking at home. Nishi-san, do you cook your own meals at home?

Nishi: I don’t cook much at home. I prefer to eat what others cook for me (laughs).

Takano: (laughs). That’s what happens, doesn’t it?

Celeina: So you cook a lot for work. And Neki is called “Innovative French,” but again, what kind of genre is this Innovative French?

Nishi: I don’t really remember myself calling it innovative, but I think it is probably innovative because it incorporates Japanese cooking methods such as dashi (Japanese soup stock) into French cuisine, which did not exist in French cuisine in the past.

Takano: Like alternative.

Nishi: I don’t know, but I think it is like being outside the box.

Celeina: By the way, what is the origin of the name of your store?

Nishi: I am from Kyoto, and “neki” means “near” or “beside” in the San-in region or in Kansai. Like “neighbor. My grandmother and grandfather used to use this word, and it reminded me a little of them, so I created this song in the hope that it would be like that kind of neighbor.

Celeina: French cuisine is more like a special than a neighborhood.

Nishi: Yes. I didn’t want to make the restaurant too expensive. I wanted people to feel more familiar with French cuisine and restaurant culture.

Celeina: I see. By the way, what kind of cuisine do you serve?

Nishi: It is based on French cuisine, but we get ingredients from farmers and producers in Japan, so it is not too much of a mess. We try to focus on the ingredients as much as possible.

Celeina: It sounds like gathering ingredients is also quite important.

Nishi: Yes, it is. That’s why I visit various people. I visit farmers, listen to their stories, and harvest their vegetables. After doing these kinds of things, there are many places that ask us to do business with them.

Celeina: Mr. Nishi himself?

Nishi: I go there, or I go there with my staff.

Celeina: : Where did you go most recently? What was the most memorable place you visited?

Nishi: Just before we opened, I went to a place called Nakazato Nature Farm in Kochi Prefecture.

Takano: Is there anything on the menu that you would recommend people to try when they visit Neki?

Nishi: The menu changes every two months or so. It changes depending on the season, so it’s just a recommendation at that time.

Celeina: So you can taste new dishes every time you go.

Takano: How about this season?

Nishi: It is the end of summer. I think mushrooms, potatoes, kikurage mushrooms, and so on will be available. I think the food will be abundant and delicious.

Celeina: I feel like going there.

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