“You should wear a bowtie when you teach a class,” my wife suggested.
I was so focused on what I would teach, forgetting about what to wear.
“You know that cooking show you said you used to watch when you were a child.”
Yes, I was the one who told my wife the story and I forgot about it.
“I think that cooking show and the host, what’s his name, had a big influence on you, so that is why you should wear a bowtie. I think you should make it your style just like he did.”
She was right on. It took me thirty years to realize how much influence the host had on me.
I rushed back from school. My yakisoba noodle lunch waited at the table during my Mom’s absence while she worked part-time at a cafe in downtown. Saturday was Dad’s favorite — TV all to himself.
Laughter from the TV echoed in the living room. I turned my head around to look at the screen. There was a man with a bow tie, burgundy velvet shirt, with a glass of wine in his hand. With a glass of wine in his hand, I saw him hooped over the couch, sat and started talking to the audience. It was an American talk show.
No, wait. It’s not a talk show?
The set, the room had a brick wall — a London bachelor’s apartment like kitchen with sofas.
The well-dressed-handsome host chopped onions and slammed the meat on the cutting board. It was crude. He was clumsy. He ridiculed himself when he made mistakes. One joke after another. The audience was laughing.
This, is a cooking show.
But, it looked nothing like the other cooking shows I’d seen.
“Yes, that is 2g of salt, isn’t that right, Mr. Tanaka?” “Yes, that is correct.” This was the typical dialogue being exchanged between the instructor and assistant: mono-tone, informative, precise, educational instructions. No chit-chat. No, “Oh I love that dish.” No “Wow, this is fantastic!” type of remarks.
On the screen, the host took out the roasting pan and placed in on a table. He sat on the table pour more red wine in his glass, after removing his gloves and apron. He sliced the rock-size chunk of juicy roasted beef and transferred it to his plate.
He moved his knife to take a small bite of the mouthwatering Wilmington beef. The camera zoomed into the audience gazing with envy, the host savoring the wine-infused dish.
I can taste it. I can smell it.
Thank you, the host said.
The music, and the end roll.
He stood up from his chair, dashed toward the audience, and took the hand of a woman, run back to the table with her. Her eyes widened, smiling, laughing. They both sat down, drunk wine, ate the beef, savoring the food, talking enjoying the conversation, sharing the moment.
I asked my dad what the show was called. He told me “Sekai no Ryori Show,” The Wolrd Cooking Show in Japanese. The name of the host was Graham Kerr (Gra-ham Kerr in Japanese).
Watching Galloping Gourmet became my Saturday ritual for a while. My favorite part of the show was always the ending. I tried to guess who Graham would pick from the audience. I always thought he would choose a woman because I imagined he was a womanizer because of the way he dressed (I later learned I was wrong. He did picked a man from the audience once in a while).
It took some twenty years for me to learn the original name of the show: Galloping Gourmet. Another ten years passed until I had a chance to meet the host, Graham Kerr, at his home in the suburb of Seattle.
“I had no idea you had British accent since you were speaking Japanese when I saw you on TV,” I said to Graham Kerr.
I received an email asking me to do a Live Radio Interview.
We do the shows live every Monday night from 7–8 PM and would love to have you for a half a show early in the new year. How’s your schedule?
Stunned, I was. Sally James is an award-winning Australian author, educator, chef, television presenter, and radio host. Her books and recipes have won international acclaim for food and wine pairing, health, and creativity. Why would someone like Sally be interested in interviewing me?
Of course, I told her yes, well, more specifically, this is what I replied: I would be delighted.
The Live Radio Interview took place on January 21, 2019.
During the interview, I talked about my early cooking influences, specifically, Graham Kerr, the Galloping Gourmet.
I strive to be like him, not only in the way I dress, but also in how I lead my Sushi Classes. I’m always trying to find a new way to entertain my guests.
The half an hour show went so fast, and it was over before I knew it. I felt like a kid at all you can eat buffet — still hungry for more.
The interview was fun, exciting and sweet.
Two days later, one email caught my eye: it was from Sally.
I’d like to connect you to my dear friend, Graham Kerr, who was delighted to hear your story and his part in it.
Um, what?! Did Sally just call Graham Kerr a ‘dear friend’?? She’s going to ‘connect’ me to him?? What does this mean?? What is happening here?? Am I actually going to be able to speak to the person who had such a significant influence on my career?? The man who influences the way I conduct my business every single day??
“You’ve got to hear this, “I told my wife. “Guess who Sally James wants to connect me with?? Graham Kerr!!” I exclaimed.
“What? Graham Kerr? Oh, my God. I can’t believe it! That is so magical!!” she said.
So I sent an email to Mr. Galloping Gourmet himself.
Dear Mr. Kerr.
I am delighted to send this email to you.
Ever since I saw you on Japanese TV, you have been my inspiration. You were speaking Japanese back then, so I never knew you had a British accent until I saw your original videos.
Every time I teach a Sushi Class, I feel I carry part of your style — I wear a bowtie, I make jokes, I offer a Hand Roll to a class guest to eat, just as you invited one of your guests to share the meal you cooked with you at the end of your show.
Thank you for showing me how to share the joy of entertaining others through cooking.
I do hope I have an opportunity to meet and talk to you in person.
On February 10, 2019, I received a voicemail.
“Well, Kaz, it’s GrahmGraham Kerr. You kindly sent me a warm email. Thank you…”
Wait, did that voice just say, Graham Kerr??? It took me a minute to wrap my head around his words.
Graham Kerr just left me a voicemail, and now he was just a phone call away.
When I first started a small sushi class business in 2012, never in a million years did I expect my journey to turn out this way.
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