Nobu | lesoleilfoundation



27 September 2003

Since 2000, Nobu Matsuhisa had been coming to the Belvedere for one or two weeks to personally supervise everything at the Belvedere Sushi. The Nobu Food Festival began in 2003 as a pop-up for that year and in 2004 it began operating as Matsuhisa Mykonos.

Nobu would come either at the end of May or in late September before the restaurant closed. I met him in 2003 when he opened the Matsuhisa with the Ioannidis brothers.

His cuisine with Peruvian influences was amazing; chilled sake was served in a large bamboo decanter, while his most celebrated dish was Atlantic black cod which our group of friends called ‘baccalaureate’... a play on the Greek word for ‘cod’.

“I created the black cod so many years years ago.” Nobu told me, “Although it is popular now, no one knew it back then. When I opened the restaurant in New York with Robert De Niro, he mentioned during an interview that it was his favourite dish and since then it has become the most celebrated. But really it was the media that made it so famous. Perhaps also (laughing) because it was inexpensive at first!”

I was impressed by his personality. He was unpretentious and incredibly calm by the standards of the island’s frenzied pace. He went from table to table, greeted everyone and always initiated extremely interesting conversations not only about his influences but also the culinary art in general. Very often he himself would cook, while in Athens as well as on Mykonos he would look for local products to use in the kitchen. His first book had just been published and he was kind enough to sign it for us.

But during my first interview with him, what really struck me were his thoughts about the importance of good fortune for a successful career and how the biggest success of your life can emerge from a total disaster! “If someone has dreams and endeavours to do the best they can to fulfil them, then everything is possible. One day those dreams will become reality and in a way this can be considered fortune. Many people, however, use ‘fortune’ as an excuse for their own failure, persisting with the belief that things happen easily, even if you have a lazy attitude. As far as I’m concerned, ‘fortune’ is people trying to do the best they can. To a great extent, it is character that determines a person’s ‘fortune’.” I then asked him if he believed that a wrong move – such as when he took the decision to go to Peru, where the venture did not go well – might eventually lead to the greatest success in a person’s life. And I will never forget his reply! It was one of the best lessons I ever learned about the importance of not giving up. “Quite possibly. In my case it is certainly true. When I left Japan for Peru I was only 24 years old. Like all young people, I wanted to face challenges, learn about other cultures and gain new experiences. After three years I went to Argentina, then to Latin America and after to Alaska. These steps may not have been successful… so on the face of things it may seem that I had made a mistake. But I learned from that mistake. And that is the true value of experiences. People make mistakes but they should never stop trying. Then, ‘good fortune’ is something that appears in their life.” And I realized that a person’s ‘good fortune’ is his or her character! Nothing else!

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the restaurant! Let’s celebrate!

Ps. The text is a part of the central article in Mykonos confidential magazine in which mrs Ada Iliopoulou wrote her experiences from Mykonos about the last 30 years. The photo of Nobu Matsuhisa is by Costas Coutayar from Minas photo exhibition “Clarity of shapes” and the coffee table book for unforgettable Greek designer Minas.