Alumna Tania Kadokura
Alumna Tania Kadokura grew up in Japan, Germany and the United States with a Japanese father and a German mother. She graduated from International Christian University, going on to work for a securities company. After getting married, she obtained the Grand Diplôme® at Le Cordon Bleu London and hosted cooking classes at her home in Tokyo for many years.
She currently lives in Kagoshima Prefecture, where her husband is from. Tania has written several books and contributed to magazines about cooking and the German lifestyle for the Japanese market. We recently caught up with her to find out about her culinary journey so far.
When did you first realise you wanted to work with food?
"As a child, I had always enjoyed being in the kitchen, especially during the time I lived with my German grandmother in the first grade. I’d come home from school and my grandmother and I would prepare dinner together while I told her all about my school day. Later, when I lived again with my parents, I often experimented in the kitchen making cakes and trying out chocolate recipes I found in women's magazines etc. (I think my mother was not so happy that I ruined some of her pots and pans).
I moved to London, joining my husband who was to attend business school, at the age of about 28, and I had to take a break from my work in finance and felt at a loss as to what to do with myself. A girlfriend who was visiting me reminded me that I loved to cook, and that is when I started looking at culinary schools in London."
Why did you choose to come to Le Cordon Bleu London?
"I found several culinary schools in London, but Le Cordon Bleu was the only school that would let you work with high end ingredients. Of course therefore it was the most expensive school but I thought it would be worth the money to get to know the 'real' ingredients."
How did your culinary training help you to start your career?
"After returning to Tokyo, I did not originally think of going into the food industry but luckily many people came to say they would love to learn from me what I learned at Le Cordon Bleu! And that is how I started teaching classes at home and from there I started doing magazine work and things evolved from there. Le Cordon Bleu definitely opened many doors.
For me personally, having trained at Le Cordon Bleu always gave me the confidence that I knew what I was doing, at least technically. I had learned the basics of western cooking and such techniques can be applied to any kind of western cooking!"
What advice would you give to someone looking to follow in your footsteps?
"Learn the basics and proper techniques and get lots of experience!"
What does Le Cordon Bleu represent for you in one sentence?
"A chance to start a second career, although I did not know that at the time!"
How would you describe your current role?
"It is not so easy to explain what I do but I introduce western home cooking and food culture, lifestyle to the Japanese (mostly female) public. I conduct cooking classes at home as well as online. I do magazine and TV work - mostly lifestyle and/or introducing recipes, write a monthly article in the local newspaper and I also run a small web shop. My most exciting new project is conducting cooking holiday style tours to where I live now in Kagoshima, in the countryside where I moved three years ago at the beginning of the COVID crisis."
How did you get into this role?
"After attending Le Cordon Bleu I started out doing cooking classes at home, mostly introducing French and Italian recipes. I was then approached by the National TV Broadcaster NHK who asked if I would appear in a German language education programme once a month to introduce German recipes and food culture. At first I thought German cooking was too "farmer style“ for the Japanese to be interested in it, but soon realized that food is not just a recipe, it is part of our culture!
When introducing recipes from Le Cordon Bleu it was just a recipe, but when I introduce “Linseneintopf” I talk about my grandmother and how she made Eintopf every Saturday. From there I was approached about writing a book about German lifestyle and housekeeping. This was long before Marie Kondo appeared on the scene and the book did quite well. Things evolved from there."
What does your day-to-day look like?
"Since I moved to Kagoshima, I guess I could say I am half retired? I do not do as many classes as I used to in Tokyo, but I have started doing real cooking classes at a small cooking studio we built here. And since COVID I also do online classes, twice a month introducing whatever themes I am interested in now. The great thing about online courses is that people from all over can attend, just amazing!
I also run a small web shop and so that keeps me busy preparing jams with local fruits, most recently kumquat marmalade.
I am also doing an event with the local government. Where I live is mostly a farming community and the local government wants to lift their income through 6th sector industrialization. We are having a seminar inviting local farmers, local food producers, marketers etc. and I will be preparing a tasting menu using local food products.
So, I do not have one job, but it is a food and lifestyle promotion kind of job."
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
"Keeping people continually interested in what I do! I do like to keep things simple, but it is also important to keep with the trends. I am very interested in the plant-based recipes, and the fermenting courses you are offering!"
What is your inspiration?
"After Le Cordon Bleu, my good friend that I met at the school, Katherine Whalen (she is a food writer in the US) and I made a trip to Italy and we joined a cooking tour with Chef Alister Little, I believe it was in Tuscany. We were part of a rather big group, we all did not know each other before, but we really enjoyed each other’s company, cooking together, eating together, learning about the Italian culture. I was so excited and wanted to do such tours myself.
I did do tours to Italy, Germany, Bangkok and Hong Kong, taking Japanese groups to the countryside, sometimes staying in cottages etc., but I think it was still too early then, people were still more interested in seeing famous sights and taking photos rather than actually experiencing new cultures. But somewhere inside, I kept my dream alive, and when I moved to Kagoshima, I realized that I do not have to go abroad to do cooking holidays, but I could do something interesting locally. I still have some legal aspects to cover but I hope in the future to have more people from the city visiting the countryside to see the wonderful lifestyle we have!"
What part of the role are you most passionate about?
"I love to meet new people, exchange ideas, learn about each other’s lifestyle and culture. The Japanese are usually rather shy and so I find the easiest way to start talking to people is through food, whether it is meeting local farmers or cooking together with local housewives."
Do you have anything exciting coming up in the future?
"Nothing really new at the moment, but I am currently thinking about my next cooking holiday maybe in May! In my opinion it is the nicest season to visit Kagoshima. It is still before the rainy season so not yet humid, but it is already warmer, and the local citrus trees are in full bloom!"
Inspired by Tania's journey? Find out how you can follow in her footsteps by finding out more about our Grand Diplôme®, or by visiting our programmes page to view the full list of courses available and start your culinary journey today.