Eating with Artists: Kentaro Yoshida
Artist and illustrator Kentaro Yoshida has a background in advertising. Taking the leap from a leading international agency, he's following his Australian dream of living by the ocean with his young family, and creating art full time in his studio. Be prepared to be whooshed off your feet when you meet Kentaro: he's enthusiastic, warm, generous to share his ideas, and full of jokes and smiles. He loves surfing, beer and his little girls. He's self deprecating to a fault, so you really have to push if you want to know more about this impressive talent.
Kentaro is popularly known for his energetic murals which mash Aussie beach culture with Japanese mythological characters or Yokai. He often depicts Gashadokukuro or giant skeleton spirits in beachwea, riding the waves on surfboards, munching burgers and sipping on beer. His characters are filled with energy, humour and vigour, but his tendency to use softer tones are reminiscent of sun faded beach umbrellas and deckchairs.
I asked Kenny if we could talk about food and stuff- he kindly obliged.
Tina : Where were you born Kenny, and why the move to Sydney?
Ken: I was born in a fishing village called Toyama on the north coast of the main island of Japan. My mum suggested I try it out in Australia- I arrived when I was 18 and I'm still here!
Tina: Do you miss Japanese food, and how how do you cope ?
Ken: I missed it so much when I first moved here. But there have been so many good Japanese cafes and restaurants that have opened since then, so that's really good for my family now.
Tina: When you are working in your studio and stressed with deadlines, what do you eat?
Ken: I generally like cooking, so I often make the family meals. My wife takes over when I am busy and she cooks great authentic Japanese food.
I like to start early so I usually eat breakfast in the studio.
Tina: Do you have any naughty/indulgent food confessions?
Kenny: Occasionally I cook homemade ramen with soup, and I smash it with rice. It is quite common to eat ramen with rice in Japan. Eating a double dose of carbs is definitely naughty, but we love doing it!
Tina: With two little girls, is it a challenge to juggle meals you can all eat?
Kenny: My wife and I love spicy food. When we cook pasta for the kids for instance, we just add the chilli for ourselves!
Tina: Can you please share with us some favourites places to eat?
Ken: Haha! Well I have so many favourites from the city to Surry Hills, to the Northern Beaches. And most of the chefs and owners are friends, so I'm not about to say which my favourite is!
But.... it is always a treat to go to a local Japanese izakaya restaurant in Narrabeen called Sushi Nara and have sushi and cold Asahi tap beer.
Tina: What's a favourite dish that reminds you of home?
Ken: My home town is famous for fresh seafood and rice, so the combination of good sushi and sake always reminds me of Toyama. We also have amazing Japanese amberjack in the Toyama waters and it is similar to kingfish so whenever I have a chance to, I order kingfish sashimi or sushi.
Tina: Your art seems to make a frequent connection with food. And many of your murals are in restaurants.
Ken: I am not sure how the connection happens, but it is true that last year I had many requests for murals in Japanese restaurants. As an illustrator and being Japanese, it seems natural for me to be portraying Japanese food culture.
Last year I created a mural and sign board for a new Japanese restaurant called Deck in Dee Why. they wanted me to come up with something that showed off their food but also celebrated the culture of the northern beaches where it is located.
It was a really fun project and I was so happy with the outcome.
Tina: What do you love about eating in Australia?
Ken: I like pub food and drinking tap beers. Pub lunches are my favourite. I also like to check out the local pie shops when I"m on a surf trip.
Tina: What do you think Australians could learn from Japan when it comes to food?
Ken: Japanese people often spend long hours eating and drinking Izakaya-style. I think it's completely opposite to spending time in a pub in Australia. Both for me mean a good time, but they are a completely different experience to each other.
Tina: Could you please share a recipe you and your wife like to cook at home?
Ken: We often cook cold soba salad in the summer. It's really simple: just cook some soba, drain and chill. Then mix ponzu, sesame oil (could be Japanese salad dressing you can buy at Woolies) & bit of men-tsuyu (Japanese soba sauce).
Marinade the soba with this.
Assemble a salad of kale, avocado or whatever veggies you'd prefer for a salad around the soba in a large, shallow bowl, then pour the rest of dressing over the salad as well.
Adding salmon sashimi makes it even better!
Try it with other types of noodles such as udon and so-men; you can enjoy different textures with each noodle.
Tina: What were some artistic highlights during a difficult Covid year in 2020?
Ken: To be honest, I have had quite a lot of commercial work in the 2nd half of 2020. Like anyone else, I was anxious about the world and industry, so I spent most of my time in commercial work. I really would like to explore and work on some personal illustration and art pieces this year.
Tina: What projects are you working on now Kentaro?
Ken: I started a couple of commercial projects I have signed off from 2020, which are really exciting. I am also working on public art projects With Northern Beaches council for the first time so I cannot wait to get going on them and share my new work with the public!
Follow Kentaro Yoshida on Instagram: @kentaro_yoshida