SINGAPORE, Oct 11 — Those who have watched Japanese romantic comedy drama Zettai Kareshi back in 2008 would have fond memories of Japanese actor-host Mocomichi Hayami, who played a “perfect” robot boyfriend, Night Tenjo, to Japanese actress Saki Aibu’s character Riiko Izawa.
In the show, which was based on the original manga novel Absolute Boyfriend, Tenjo was a great cook, as it was one of the ‘boyfriend’ qualities Izawa had requested of her robot beau. Scenes would show the handsome fella whipping up delicious dishes in the kitchen for her, which naturally sent fans swooning, because let’s face it — who does not love a dashing apron-clad man in the kitchen?
Well, you might be glad to know that this scene has become a reality.
Hayami is actually a really good cook in real life, and even has his own cooking show, Moco’s Kitchen, which is showing on Sony’s Korean Entertainment Channel GEM. A fan of cooking show Iron Chef since he was young, he picked up cooking after watching his brother cook years ago and, well, rightfully, thought that men who cook might be popular with the ladies.
Trust us when we say he is no amateur. His cookbook, also titled Moco’s Kitchen and features more than 500 recipes he demonstrated on the programme, won the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards’ Japanese cooking category in 2013.
It is no wonder then that people have dubbed him the “Jamie Oliver of Japan”.
Speaking through a translator, the 32-year-old said he is “happy and honoured” that he is compared with the British celebrity chef. There are some similarities between his cooking style and Oliver’s, he pointed out. While “Oliver is definitely more experienced”, Hayami added that, much like his own cooking, Oliver’s dishes “are quite dynamic”, and while he prepares dishes that may look difficult to create, they are actually quite simple to do.
He, too, has taken it upon himself to make preparations of the dishes easy, simple and fuss-free to do in the comfort of one’s own home. “In my recipe, I make it a point to minimise the number of cooking steps to keep the recipe simple, so you can prepare the dish in one place, in one go.”
All the recipes in Moco’s Kitchen are personally crafted by him, and they are usually created after requests from viewers. Cuisines vary widely, ranging from Italian to French, and of course, Japanese.
Hayami, also known for his lead roles in other popular Nippon TV dramas such as the live adaption of manga series Gokusen 2 and romantic comedy Rebound, describes his love for cooking as something that came about from a small bud of interest and grew into something unexpected.
“What started off as a past-time has now become a greater passion, and it’s become part of my career as well,” he mused. “I feel that, as time goes by, my passion for cooking is increasing by the day and it’s an endless spiral because I cook and people who eat my food — people around me — become happy.”
“By watching how people enjoy my food, it makes me want to try harder,” he said, adding that it gives him energy and fuel to carry on.
Hayami, who spoke to reporters last week, arrived in Singapore on September 28 to film a special episode that will feature Singapore’s food culture and cuisine. His stay in Singapore, he said, has sparked new ideas. “After coming to Singapore, I have learnt about the culinary culture and gotten a lot of inspiration, which I cannot wait to reflect in my upcoming recipes. It’s an endless cycle of creation and inspiration.”
For instance, in the Singapore Special, Hayami has come up with a dish that is a fusion of both Japanese and Singaporean cuisines — a rich butter chicken curry soup with prawns and noodles prepared with a twist as the soup is served separately.
“In Singapore, when it’s prepared locally, the noodle is already inside the soup. So I’ve adopted a Japanese style of eating it, which is ‘tsukemen’ — dipping noodle into the soup before eating,” Hayami explained. Furthermore, the dish includes ingredients such as spices and lemongrass, which Hayami had sourced from a market here. The episode will air on GEM early next month.
Ultimately, Hayami is a hit back home not just because of his practical and delicious recipes, and his, ahem, good looks, but also because he truly enjoys what he does, which his audience can identify with.
“A few chefs have actually told me, I think you are well-received because whenever we see you cooking on your show, you seem to be having a lot of fun,” he said.
“It’s the fun and cheerful element that I have in my cooking show that captures the hearts of many people.” — TODAY