A Japanese seduces Belgium with his chocolates

(Brussels) “When I return to Japan and I talk about Belgium, people say to me “Ah, chocolate!” »

Originally from Nara, near Osaka, Yasushi Sasaki arrived in Belgium at the age of 19, without speaking a word of French. And without having the slightest idea of ​​the direction his life would take.

At 52, he was named best chocolatier of the year 2024 for Brussels by the Gault & Millau guide.

“I didn’t know anything, I didn’t know anything, I started from zero (…) But I actually made the right choice. Chocolate ? From the moment I chose the profession, it became my whole life. It’s a hobby, a job, a pleasure.”

In his small workshop behind his shop, in Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, one of the communes of Brussels, the one whom the famous guide describes as a “magician of aromas” experiments.

By drawing inspiration from his country of origin, but sparingly. Because not all Japanese flavors are suitable for making uncoated ganaches, one of its specialties.

“Green tea is very strong, it goes very well. Yuzu too,” he explains, while regularly giving advice to his team, made up of young Japanese. “But khaki and tangerine, no.”

Upstream, it takes care of its sources of supply. The green tea comes from Kyoto: “I have a cousin who works in the field and I order directly.”

At a time when cocoa prices are soaring, he is also attentive to cost control. “We are artisans, but we are also traders. To be able to remain artisans, you have to sell products…”

“I have my way”

Does the one who learned everything in Brussels have Belgian models? No, he replies quietly.

“I have my way, I have my taste. I know my strong point is my way, it’s not imitating someone else. Mr. Marcolini has risen very high, but in his own way,” he adds, referring to Pierre Marcolini, extremely famous well beyond the Belgian borders.

Today, Yasushi Sasaki also exports to his country of origin.

Its sales on the archipelago peak around Valentine’s Day, the day of the year when the Japanese consume the most chocolate. A mark of recognition, its products were sold in particular in the Mitsukoshi department store, a real institution located in the Nihonbashi district of Tokyo.

As the Easter holidays approach, he is preparing, in his Brussels patisserie, for another highlight of the year. Delighted with his recognition by Gault & Millau, he also has advice for the guide: warn the winners well in advance of the announcement to the general public, so that they can prepare.

“Winning a competition is just for professionals… But the Gault & Millau is a huge impact all at once,” he says, referring to a jump of 20% to 30% in his turnover. ‘business.

Yasushi Sasaki currently has no plans to move or expand.

“For me, I’ve been making chocolates for years. I just keep doing good things, that’s all. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing.”

reference: www.lapresse.ca

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