“Hajimemashite” (How do you do?) My name is Akira Onizawa and I am honored to be the Executive Chef at the Branson School. I am a native of Tokyo, and I specialized in Japanese cuisine for 13 years. A love of French cuisine motivated me to move to New York City to attend the French Culinary Institute, where I graduated with honors in 2007. I had the wonderful experience of working at restaurants such as L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Per Se, and Alain Ducasse, where I learned about cuisine in its most refined form…the synergy of taste and presentation to create the ultimate dining experience.
Although fine dining appealed to my palate as well as my sense of aesthetics, I felt an increasing ethical dilemma. I was creating dishes that were delicious and beautiful but generally unhealthy…I actually developed chronic gallstones from 5 years of tasting dishes! Also, it was food that wasn’t sustainable, as great amount of expense and waste often goes into sourcing and preparing gourmet ingredients.
It was then that I met Chef Robert “Bobo” Surles of the Calhoun School in NYC, who is one of the pioneers toward improving school lunch programs in America. Chef Bobo believes that food can absolutely be healthy as well as delicious and sustainable, and letting children experience these wonderful foods will shape their eating habits for life. Working with Chef Bobo gave me firsthand experience about creating balanced, inspired menus; harvesting fresh vegetables from our rooftop garden; working with local suppliers; working with each chef’s diverse culture to introduce authentic ethnic tastes, and pleasing the toughest food critics in NYC…kids!
I am truly honored to have the opportunity to create a flagship lunch program at the Branson School. “Ganbarimasu” (I will do my best).