• 07:13 PM, 6 Feb, 2020

Celebrated Japanese chef Yoshihiro Murata has been named the recipient of the prestigious American Express Icon Award 2020.

The coveted award, voted for by the 300-plus members of the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy, honours culinary icons who have made an outstanding contribution to the restaurant industry. Fittingly, Chef Murata will be presented with the American Express Icon Award in his native Japan during the eighth annual Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards ceremony on Tuesday 24th March, when the region’s most acclaimed chefs and restaurateurs will gather in Takeo, Saga Prefecture, to celebrate the 2020 edition of the list, sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna.

Considered the master of Japanese kaiseki, Yoshihiro Murata is the third-generation owner and chef of Kikunoi, the highly revered ryotei in Kyoto. Comprising 11 private rooms, the century-old restaurant offers 12 elaborate courses, each one immaculately presented and crafted to showcase locally-grown seasonal Japanese ingredients. A guardian of Japanese culinary traditions and craftsmanship, Murata reinforced his reputation as the king of kaiseki when he opened Roan Kikunoi (also in Kyoto) and Akasaka Kikunoi (Tokyo).

Across the three Kikunoi restaurants, Murata has earned a combined seven Michelin stars.

In the early ‘70s, Murata travelled to Paris to study French cooking. While mastering the techniques of French cuisine, he became aware of the many misconceptions and misunderstandings surrounding Japanese food.

Returning to his homeland, Murata dedicated himself to educating diners from all over the world on Japanese culinary traditions and nurturing the next generation of Japanese chefs. In 2004, he founded the non-profit Japanese Culinary Academy to facilitate educational programs and cross-cultural exchanges between Japanese and Western chefs. His in-depth courses in Japanese culinary traditions have been attended by world-renowned chefs including David Chang, Claude Bosi and Michael Anthony. Murata has also authored definitive guides to his national cuisine, including Kaiseki: The Exquisite Cuisine of Kyoto's Kikunoi Restaurant (2006), and Japanese Home Cooking with Master Chef Murata (2010).

Accepting the honour, Murata said: “I regard this prestigious award as validation of my lifelong goal to share Japanese cuisine with the rest of the world. I am grateful that the members of the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy appreciate my work. I hope I can inspire younger Japanese chefs to share their passion, explore the diversity of locally-grown ingredients and educate others on authentic Japanese cuisine.”

William Drew, Director of Content for Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, said: “Having distinguished himself as an educator, an innovator and a guardian of culinary rituals, Yoshihiro Murata has earned the respect of the world’s most celebrated chefs. His craftsmanship, attention to detail and meticulously presented dishes have made him an international culinary icon. This year, the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards ceremony will be hosted in Saga Prefecture and we are thrilled that one of Japan’s most distinguished chefs will be honoured at the event with the prestigious American Express Icon Award.”

“Through his culinary expertise, Chef Yoshihiro Murata has beautifully paid tribute to the traditions of Japanese cuisine, while also innovating and expanding upon it globally for generations to come,” said Seiji Kiyohara, President of Consumer Services for Asia, American Express. “For this and so much more, we are so pleased to honor Chef Murata with this year’s American Express Icon Award.”

The American Express Icon Award was introduced to the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards programme in 2019, when Chef Seiji Yamamoto of Nihonryori RyuGin in Tokyo was named the inaugural winner.

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