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How Chef Kazuhiro Watanabe Grills 360 Tsukune-Style Yakitori Sticks a Day

Tokyo restaurant Tsukune Toranomon specializes in skewered minced chicken

“I think we are a quite uncommon yakitori restaurant,” says Tsukune Toranomon chef Kazuhiro Watanabe. “We are funny.” Watanabe is referring to the playful attitude he conveys as the current head of his father’s yakitori restaurant, which opened in 1968. The shop has always specialized in tsukune, a style of yakitori made from finely minced and skewered chicken. It’s obvious that Watanabe is filled with passion and joy as he demonstrates how to skewer the meat, and how to grill each stick to perfection in order to savor the most flavor and fat.

At Tsukune Toranomon, Watanabe serves about 60 people a day, which translates to about 360 different skewers a day of tsukune, made with chicken heart, liver, gizzard, skin, tail meat, breast, or cartilage. While the ratio of ingredients is a “company secret,” the chicken is minced, seasoned, needed, and spritzed with yuzu. If customers ask for sauce, Watanabe kindly declines to serve it, for sauce would mask the yuzu flavor and add too much salt to the already seasoned chicken.

“To be honest with you, I never thought about yakitori this deeply before today’s interview,” admits the chef. “Today I realize that I really love yakitori, customers, people, and how amazing it is to be healthy. I would like to meet many kinds of people and make them smile.”

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