For the Love of Food and Culture
By Gloria Vaquera Photos courtesy of Tatsu Miyazaki
Today, Tatsuya Miyazaki, better known as “Tatsu”, is a world-renowned chef and restaurant consultant. However, growing up in Tokyo, Japan, he would have never imagined all that he would accomplish in the culinary world. At the age of 18, he left his home and his country behind and came to the U.S. with a dream of luxuriating in worldly fare.
His appetite for sharing his love of food and culture has taken him on a life-long journey which began early in 1978. After completing the Culinary Arts Program at NMSU in 1988, he went on to the American Culinary Federation (ACF). As his career progressed, Tatsu continued to bolster his expertise and knowledge by attending seminars in areas such as food service sanitation, ice carving, professional baking and classical desserts, supervisory management and nutrition.
As his training, experience and, most importantly, his passion were becoming more and more evident Tatsu began to win awards in various culinary competitions. Early in his career he won a National Gold Medal from ACF. He also received a Gold Medal and Best of Show five consecutive years in a row from the ACF New Mexico State Culinary Competitions. Then, in 1996 he placed as a member of the Western Regional Culinary Olympic Team USA. These are only a few on a very long list of awards and honors that Chef Tatsu has received in the course of his career.
However, the latest and most prestigious honor he has been awarded is being named the 2016 Chef of the Year. There were 24 other nominees from around the state vying for the coveted title. The award was presented to Chef Tatsu at the 2016 Hospitality Industry Awards by the New Mexico Restaurant Association for his contribution to the advancement and prestige of the foodservice industry in New Mexico. Every chef aspires to be named Chef of the Year as the award can only be received once in a lifetime.
“It’s a big deal! This is the highest honor a chef can receive and Tatsu definitely deserves it,” affirmed Estela Miyazaki, Tatsu’s wife. She tells me that Tatsu is not only an excellent chef but he is also very humble and generous with this time, knowledge and resources. Estella says that Tatsu is always willing to help anyone in need and eager to teach up-and-coming chefs all he knows.
Although he has been a chef instructor at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Las Vegas, to teach someone all he knows would take a lifetime. He speaks Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Spanish and a little Arabic and Portuguese and has traveled the world learning, developing and teaching new techniques and styles of cooking. His influences are stamped in one way or another in many restaurants around the world from Las Cruces across the globe to Dubai—whether as an owner, partner, consultant, chef or instructor. Currently, he concentrates his efforts on providing culinary direction at the Sierra Grande Lodge Restaurant in T or C and Aqua Reef Euro Asian Cuisine as well as on World Class Gourmet—a restaurant consulting and catering firm for which he is CEO.
During his travels doing business in Dubai, he would often be gone for months at a time and although the experience was great, sometimes cooking for sheiks and kings, it translated to being away from his family for extended periods of time. “That is the hardest part of my job,” Chef Tatsu confesses. “But it’s been amazing and I am extremely lucky to travel the world and get to know different people, food and cultures,” he says.
Tatsu’s culinary trajectory, spanning nearly five decades, together with his impressive credentials have elevated his occupational prestige to working alongside the very elite. Some of the most notable have been Ted Turner, Sir Richard Branson and Cybill Sheperd among others. His partnership with the Ted Turner Group includes running the Sierra Grande Lodge as well as coordinating special dinners for the VIP groups that come to tour Turner’s Ladder and Armendariz Ranches in southern New Mexico.
World Class Gourmet is an exclusive hospitality partner with Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. Chef Tatsu and his team are working closely with Virgin Galactic staff to develop a custom, innovative menu tailored to the special dietary needs of future astronauts during their three day training session and for all flight day activities. The global influence of his food will no doubt appeal to the palates of these distinguished guests during their stay in the Land of Enchantment.
His menu is as expansive as the people he caters to and includes some Asian, Mexican, Italian, American and a whole lot of fusion. “My passion is creating a magical dining experience for my guests and creating custom dishes for each meal. Through Ted Turner and Virgin Galactic, I cater to VIPs from around the world. The idea is for them to have a New Mexico experience, so I use New Mexico ingredients and I give them something they have never had before,” says Tatsu.
With an impeccable reputation that precedes him and all his experience, achievements and accolades, Chef Tatsu could be thriving anywhere in the world. So, why is he still in Las Cruces? “This is my home. I am proud to be working here in New Mexico and especially Las Cruces,” explains Tatsu. “And this is where I want to continue to share my passion for food and culture.”