Two of the finest ingredients in Massimo Bottura’s kitchen are these two young chefs from Japan. Tokuyoshi hails from a family of pharmacists going back generations. But he preferred cooking, notably Italian food, and left Japan to do an apprenticeship in Umbria. When it ended he searched for another gig without success; it was only at the airport on his way home that he noticed the Osteria Francescana in a restaurant guide. He phoned, Bottura answered, and he was off to Modena. In the years since, Tokuyoshi has risen to become the restaurant’s second-in-command. He is now considered one of the most promising up-and-coming chefs in Europe.
Kondo Takahiko, known to his friends as “Taka,” was born in Tokyo and started doing restaurant work there at age 18. Like Tokuyoshi, he was crazy about Italian cuisine and went to cook in Tuscany, Veneto and Milan before ending up in Modena. He ate lunch at the Osteria Francescana in 2005, falling in love with the food and the conceptualism behind it. In return, Bottura gave him a job. Takahiko became pastry chef in 2010, and has contributed to some of the restaurant’s most inventive desserts, such as “Oops, I dropped the lemon tart.”