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Camon chef and owner Shigeru Kobayashi was born in Tokyo in 1951. He began his cooking career there, working in a ryokan, a foodfocused traditional Japanese inn. He also worked at the original Benihana restaurant in Tokyo, training under chef Yunosuki Aoki, before moving to the US. Chef Kobayashi opened Camon on Assembly Street in May 1985,

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making it not only one of Columbia’s first Japanese restaurants, but also one of the city’s longest-running restaurants in any category. Jasper sat down with Chef Kobayashi and his son, Shigeharu Kobayashi, who translated our conversation, which has been edited for length.

When you’re composing a new dish, which do you envision first: how it will look, or how it will taste? We don’t create a lot of new dishes here, but when we do it usually comes from suggestions by customers. We start with the ingredients and flavors people ask for, then figure out the balance of flavors and proportions that would work well. With sushi, people usually order a number of pieces a la carte and they get assembled on a plate, so it’s important to be flexible, visually. A lot of threads are coming together at the same time.

We also think in terms of how those ingredients and the byproducts of those ingredients will be incorporated across the whole menu. Our menu, the way it is now and the way folks have ordered over time, is very streamlined and balanced so that we’re not creating too much or too little. We throw very little away. With eel, for example, we buy it whole and use the meat for sushi and then the rest of it to make the stock for our eel sauce. It’s interesting to balance ingredients on a plate, but then to consider the balance of a meal, and the balance of how the whole shop is run.

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Jasper Magazine - Volume 3 Issue 4  

Jasper Magazine – www.jaspercolumbia.com – is dedicated to the promotion and support of Columbia, SC artists and arts lovers. Jasper Magazin...

Jasper Magazine - Volume 3 Issue 4  

Jasper Magazine – www.jaspercolumbia.com – is dedicated to the promotion and support of Columbia, SC artists and arts lovers. Jasper Magazin...