Say Hello to our newest host, Chef Eddy Tzeng of Sake House Restaurant & Sushi Bar!
Have you ever wondered where and how the trend for Sushi began in Cape Town? Cape Town’s sushi history stretches back more than 30 years ago! With exposure to Japanese pop culture and global travellers, Sushi gained increasing popularity in the past 10 years. Chef Eddy Tzeng has been crafting unique Sushi creations since 2002. Originally from Yun Lin, Taiwan, Eddy first visited Pretoria for a family vacation in early 2000. Embraced by South African’s warm hospitality, he convinced his wife to move with him. The young couple then moved to Cape Town where Eddy began his culinary journey at the famed Willoughby & Co (V&A Waterfront) and Wasabi (Constantia) restaurant. We chatted with Eddy to learn more:
In 2002, Sushi was still predominantly associated with “Raw Fish only,” and a small part of people were adventurous enough to try it. With hopes to bring sushi into people’s lives, Eddy realised that the “Raw Fish only” perception had to be changed. Whilst serving as Head Chef at Wasabi(Constantia), he took inspiration from a local favourite – Fish & Chips! Eddy decided to use Japanese Tempura-styled deep-frying to create the crispy texture, and the Crunchy Prawn Roll was born. However, Eddy encountered his next challenge – the price tag. With fresh ingredient crucial for making high-quality Sushi, many first-timers were hesitant to “invest” in their first Sushi tasting experience.
“In the beginning, I often meet people who bought their first Sushi from a supermarket counter. Some of these Sushi may not have been the freshest, depending on the time and place you buy them from… which can lead to a skewed experience”
With that, Eddy introduced a Sushi Tasting Guarantee: if you don’t like what you taste, you don’t have to pay for it! Slowly, customers were reintroduced to Sushi as a high-quality, high-value dining choice and many became loyal fans. In fact, I was introduced to Eddy by Bertram Richards, a regular Chatter who has followed Eddy’s Sushi trail for the past decade (across three restaurants!).
Creation of the Africa Dream
What I love about Eddy’s philosophy is his passion for representative, localized approach to Sushi. Eddy noticed that Cape Town’s restaurant scene was dominated by American-styled Sushi, and became motivated to create a Sushi that truly represented South Africa. He spent sleepless nights experimenting with different ingredients, from potjie, biltong to ostrich eggs, in search of ingredients that will capture the spirit. One day, a couple walked into the restaurant. Eddy immediately recognised the man as Francois Pienaar. After a handshake that almost crippled Eddy’s hand, Francois told Eddy that his first sushi after returning from England was made by him. Then an idea struck Eddy’s mind. “The captain of SA Rugby team eats sushi? I remember the team name is Springboks”. The decision was made. Chef Eddy used smoked Springbok as the main ingredient, paired with brie cheese and drizzled with fig sauce. And thus, Eddy’s first uniquely South Africa creation was born.
And the stories continue….! Eddy is now the owner and Head Chef of Sake House Restaurant and Sushi Bar in Claremont, where he continues to surprise Cape Town with innovative South African Sushi creations! We are excited to join Eddy, as he hosts our next Food and Chatter experience on Thursday, Sept 12th. Stay tuned on our Facebook page, come meet new people and rediscover Cape Town through food!
See you soon!