5 minutes with… Raymond Ma

Defying the conventions of traditional Japanese cuisine, Raymond Ma, international head chef of the Aqua Restaurant Group, told us about the creative journey behind his innovative menu at Shiro Sushi

Food and Drink 8 Apr 2024

Sushi at Shiro Sushi

Sushi at Shiro Sushi

Can you tell us a little bit about where you grew up and how this may have influenced your career?

I grew up in Hong Kong, a vibrant and diverse city known for its rich culinary scene. Hong Kong is often hailed as a city of gourmet, where food culture thrives and culinary experiences are a significant part of daily life. It’s also renowned as a paradise for chefs, with its plethora of restaurants, markets and culinary institutions.

Growing up in such a dynamic food environment had a profound influence on my career. The exposure to diverse cuisines, flavours and cooking techniques from a young age ignited my passion for food and inspired me to delve deeper into the culinary world. It instilled in me an appreciation for the artistry and creativity that goes into crafting delicious dishes.

How would you define your culinary philosophy and approach to cooking?

My culinary philosophy centres around honouring the integrity of ingredients while embracing creativity and innovation. At the heart of my approach to cooking lies a commitment to crafting dishes that showcase the freshest and finest ingredients available.

You have defied the convention of traditional Japanese foods by introducing Crystal Sushi. How did you arrive at this concept? 

The concept of Crystal Sushi was spurred on by an internal competition within our company. While the challenge was to defy the conventions of traditional Japanese foods, I initially struggled to think outside the box. However, inspiration struck unexpectedly one day when my son was enjoying a jelly snack.

Observing the diverse range of flavours encapsulated within the jelly, it sparked a thought: why not utilise this technique to infuse flavours into sushi? Thus, the idea of Crystal Sushi was born. Through experimentation and refinement, we perfected the technique, ensuring that each Crystal Sushi piece harmonised flavours in a unique and delightful way. This innovative approach not only challenged traditional notions of Japanese cuisine but also offered a fresh, exciting culinary experience for our customers.

Raymond Ma, international head chef of the Aqua Restaurant Group
Raymond Ma, international head chef of the Aqua Restaurant Group

Describe what Japanese food means to you in three words.

Only the best.

Where do you see the future of Japanese cuisine?

The future of Japanese cuisine is an exciting prospect, as it continues to evolve and innovate. One of the most intriguing aspects of Japanese cuisine is its adaptability and openness to incorporating elements from other culinary traditions. With its rich history, diverse regional specialties and emphasis on fresh, high-quality ingredients, Japanese cuisine has proven time and again that it has no ceiling on evolving its dishes.

Looking ahead, we can expect to see even more fusion and experimentation as chefs blend Japanese culinary techniques and flavours with those from other cuisines around the world. Whether it’s incorporating ingredients from Mediterranean, Indian or Latin American cuisine, or integrating cooking methods from French or Thai traditions, the possibilities are endless.

This blending of culinary cultures not only adds depth and complexity to Japanese dishes, but also creates new and exciting flavour profiles that appeal to a global audience.

What are your favourite foodie cities?

London and Tokyo.

What do you like most about London and its food scene?

One of the things I love most about London is its vibrant and diverse food scene, which offers a culinary journey through cultures from around the world. But what makes London’s food scene truly special is not just the delicious food but also the entertaining atmosphere that accompanies it. Whether you’re dining in a Michelin-starred restaurant, grabbing street food from a bustling market or enjoying a leisurely afternoon tea, you’re not just eating; you’re experiencing the rich tapestry of London’s culture and history.

What advice would you give anyone dreaming of becoming a sushi chef?

If you dream of becoming a sushi chef, passion and determination will be your guiding stars on this journey. Starting as a sushi chef demands an unwavering commitment to excellence, as it involves mastering the art of cutting fish precisely, perfecting the sushi rice and honing various techniques to craft perfect rolls and nigiri. Embrace the challenges, celebrate the successes and always strive to create unforgettable sushi experiences for your guests.