Shinya Usami has gone a long way since graduating with a Grand Diplôme in 2005. Today, he is French Chef Jean François Piège’s right hand man, in his prestigious restaurant, Clover, located in Paris’s 7th arrondissement. As Le Cordon Bleu celebrates its 120th birthday, we decided to go and meet him, to look back on his career path, and find out his news.
What did you do before studying at Le Cordon Bleu Paris?
I was born in Japan and it was there that I began my career in gastronomy. I started working in a French restaurant when I was 18, which was an amazing experience and gave me a taste for French cuisine. When I was 22, I decided to leave Japan and go to Le Cordon Bleu Paris to learn cuisine and pastry.
What made you want to study the Culinary Arts?
I think my passion comes from my grandmother and my mother who were both excellent cooks. I have also always loved eating food which looked as exquisite as it tasted. At the age of just 18, when I decided to become a Chef, I knew instantly that this would be my career forever.
For how long have you been living in France and why did you choose this country?
I have been living in Paris for more than ten years now. I chose this country because I loved the job I did in the French restaurant where I worked in Japan. I wanted to continue creating this style of cuisine.
Why did you choose our school?
What I really appreciated at Le Cordon Bleu Paris was the fact that everybody makes the dish from A to Z. This was not the case when I worked in the restaurant. Each team member worked on a separate part of the final dish. It was really great to be able to create the whole dish at the school. The second reason I chose Le Cordon Bleu was because of the internships for which the students could apply. I wanted to work in France and it was really important for me to carry out a good internship and to have the opportunity to work in prestigious establishments afterwards.
During your training at the school, you carried out internships in top establishments: Hôtel de Crillon –“Les Ambassadeurs” Restaurant and “Pierre Gagnaire” Restaurant. Could you tell us what you learnt from these experiences?
My internships really were a springboard for my career. At “Pierre Gagnaire” restaurant I learnt how to work in a very detailed way to produce cuisine of exceptional quality. Chef Pierre Gagnaire’s cuisine is truly an art form. I really loved its sensitivity.
Then, thanks to my internship at the Hôtel de Crillon, I met Chef Jean François Piège, for whom I now work at Clover restaurant in Paris’s 7th arrondissement. I am still learning so much there. Being the right hand man of such a great Chef as Jean François Piège is an extremely enriching experience.
What were your career plans following graduation?
My main aim was to join a really good kitchen brigade and then be able to work for a top restaurant and take on the role of Chef.
Did Le Cordon Bleu Paris help you to make your career plans a success? If so, in what way?
Yes. To achieve what I wanted, it was essential to create a good network and thanks to Le Cordon Bleu, and its internships in very high profile establishments, I managed to meet the right people who enabled my career to evolve.
What advice would you give to current students to ensure their career is a success?
I think that in order to have a successful career in France, it is essential to be able to speak French. I would advise international students to learn French. I would also say it is necessary to be very pro-active and, above all, curious in order to progress. Passion and motivation need to be real driving forces which push you to go further and learn a bit more every day.