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People 2 minutes 13 February 2018

Better Together: Meet The Dynamic Couple Behind Two-Michelin-Starred Tenku Ryugin in Hong Kong

Japanese chefs Hidemichi and Mizuho Seki open up on how cooking is their love language.

Michelin star video

They say that, “too many cooks spoil the broth,” but for chefs Hidemichi and Mizuho Seki, working together in the same kitchen has brought Tenku Ryugin to greater heights. This year, the contemporary kaiseki restaurant located on the 101st floor of the International Commerce Centre (ICC) building in Kowloon took home the coveted two Michelin stars.

How It All Began

The quiet couple first met each other in 2010, at Nihonryori Ryugin in Tokyo, where chef Mizuho was applying for a job after returning from a training stint at Ferran Adrià’s famed El Bulli in Spain. During their first encounter in the kitchen, chef Seki recalls how chef Mizuho gave off an intimidating air, while she noticed how focused and good-natured he was in the kitchen.

Yet, chef Mizuho shares how the kitchen environment at Ryugin in Tokyo was not one where chefs could chat with each other easily. While they would exchange the occasional greeting or joke, it was only after chef Mizuho moved to Bulgari Tokyo as pastry chef that they begin going out more.

The pair would often chat over dinner and drinks, and kept in touch even when chef Seki moved to Spain for three months. It was while he was in Spain that Seki called Mizuho and asked her to move to Hong Kong together with him.

A New Chapter

The glittering lights and crowded streets of Hong Kong was a fresh start for the couple. In the beginning, both Hidemichi and Mizuho would go for drinks together after work with their colleagues, seeking out hole-in-the-wall watering holes in the Jordan district and enjoying their new lives.

“We had new friends, everything was fresh and new,” says chef Hidemichi. “It was a fun time.”

But working together as a couple wasn’t always a bed of roses: “At the start [of this arrangement], it was quite stressful,” Hidemichi continues. “If things did not go well in the workplace, it would carry over back at home since it is still the both of us.”

“There were many quarrels, and after every one, both of us would tell the other person to leave the house,” shares Mizuho, who would stomp out and spend the night in a hotel room. Hidemichi, on the other hand, was more likely to stalk off and sleep on a park bench.

Overcoming Challenges

In order to give each other some breathing room, Mizuho took up the role of head pastry chef at Tate Dining Room & Bar under fellow female chef Vicky Lau. The distance apart helped, and the couple found themselves as proud parents in 2014 when Mizuho gave birth to their first daughter, Aoi.

Joining Forces in the kitchen

As head pastry chef and chef de cuisine of Tenku Ryugin, both Mizuho and Hidemichi complement each other well in the kitchen. Though their strengths lie in different areas, both chefs bring their well-trained palates to the table in helping each other improve.

Take the "oyster juice jelly" that Hidemichi was working on: “I was asked to come up with the jelly, and despite doing it many times, nothing came to my satisfaction,” he shares. “As the jelly did not work out, I began overcomplicating it with every attempt. Mizuho-san came over and tasted the jelly and suggested whether it would be better if this was done more simply.”

He continues: “After following her advice, I managed to succeed, that was a great help.”

Family Comes First

There have also been special occasions when the couple brought their daughter, Aoi, to work. For example, last year, both chefs had to work on a Sunday to prepare for a tea and kaiseki event at Tenku Ryugin. As it was a weekend, Aoi joined them in the kitchen, where the three-year-old enjoyed herself tasting their food. Like her parents, Aoi, too, has a honed palate. Her current favorite food? Har gow, the traditional Hong Kong dim sum of a prawn wrapped in dumpling skin.

Asked if the couple would like Aoi to become a chef when she grows up, Mizuho answers: “If Aoi likes it, I am okay with it, but there are many worlds out there. I would like her to explore this wide world and experience it, and after that, she should decide for herself.

“If she decides on cooking, we will support her. It is important that she does what she likes.”

MICHELIN guide Insider Series: Better Together

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