Five minutes with… Jun Tanaka

The Michelin-starred chef and proprietor of The Ninth in Fitzrovia reveals his passion for scuba diving, pickles and Sir David Attenborough

Food and Drink 26 Jul 2018

Jun Tanaka

Jun Tanaka of The Ninth

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I’ve ever got is actually from a book, Danny Meyer’s Setting The Table. Meyer is an inspirational restaurateur and the book gives his advice on hospitality. The passage that stood out for me is the one that tells business owners how important it is to look after your employees. It genuinely works to make your business better and we try to do this at The Ninth. Our number one priority was to look after our employees, even before the customers, as when the team is glad to come to work and arrives inspired, it creates a better atmosphere and experience for everyone and keeps customers coming back.

Who is your role model?

I don’t have any one specific role model, I’ve worked with many different amazing chefs over the years and I’ve taken a different bit from of each of them with me as I’ve gone.

What ingredient can you not live without?

Vinegar. I have six or seven different kinds. Acidity – whether it’s from a lemon or lime, or from vinegar, can really lift a dish and its flavours, even in a casserole or a risotto. I also love pickles and will happily eat just a bowl of rice and pickles for a meal.

Apart from your passport, what item can you not travel without?

A good book.

What do you like to do on a day off?

I like to eat out! I rarely cook at home. And I spend as much time with my wife as possible.

Where is your favourite place to eat in London?

Lyle’s – it might be an obvious choice but I think it’s consistently brilliant and just gets better and better each time I go. The food is seasonal and deceptively simple. I took my parents recently and each dish was completely delicious. Lyle’s is everything a restaurant should be – I’m sure it’s going to be iconic and really stand the test of time.

Apart from food, what are your biggest passions?

I like to travel and I really love scuba diving. Earlier this year we went to the Maldives to dive, and the Red Sea and the Turks and Caicos are great for diving too. On a diving trip, you tend to dive twice a day and on some occasions might not see anything but you’ll go back later that day and come across a school of hammerhead sharks. It’s often the luck of being in the right place at the right time.

Who would be your ideal dinner guest?

Sir David Attenborough. I am obsessed with Blue Planet II, it’s the best thing I’ve ever seen. I’d want the directors and cameramen there too to find out everything about the way it is made. My favourite part of the show is the ‘making of’ at the end where they show how they captured one of the incredible sequences, so for me the dinner party would be like a longer version of that, an opportunity to ask everything I want to know!

The Ninth, 22 Charlotte St, Fitzrovia, W1T 2NB;