Interview: chef Hiro Sone (Ame + Terra)

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Chef Napa Valley


What does a dish have to be to go on your menu at Terra, and how is that different from a dish that goes on your menu at Ame?

One thing that’s the same dish we do, between Terra and Ame, is our signature dish. We marinate Alaskan black cod with sake and broil with shrimp dumplings and shiso broth. That’s the only dish that’s the same. Even if we use the same ingredients, we do a different preparation depending on the season, we really change it. The basic philosophy’s the same.

Which is what?

We try to keep simple. We don’t want to manipulate ingredients too much. Sometimes I see the plate, you cannot what it is anymore. Even you cannot tell if it tastes right anymore. I don’t like those kinds of dish because to me, that’s not respecting nature. If you’re going to plate some beautiful dish, you respect nature, the color of nature, shape of nature, taste of nature. If you manipulate too much, it disappears, and you don’t see anything. My cooking, get the good ingredients, don’t make a mistake.

What do you look for when you’re hiring someone to work in your kitchen?

Of course it’s important to get somebody who has experience and somebody who knows about food, or history, or technique of cutting, sautéing, roasting, but I look for a good person. That part, you cannot change it. If you hire a bad person, I cannot change their personality. Hire a good person, people willing to learn a lot. I can see, some people, in one year, start at the very bottom, and in one year, he can be a sous chef. I can see this person working hard and trying to learn so much, trying to get everything in. Other cooks, three times, four times, I tell them something, it [motions in one ear and out the other].

What was the last person that you had to fire, and what did they do to deserve it?

Actually, I don’t remember. Three, four, five years, maybe, I’m not firing anybody.

That’s a good track record. What was the last meal that you cooked at home?

I have a garden. I harvested carrots and fennel, so it was all vegetables. Me and my wife just did a juice detox, so it was still in the body, and we wanted to be kind of clean. I just sautéed vegetables and finished with a little red wine vinegar. Very simple. I can eat those hot or cold.

What do you want people to think of when they hear your name?

If somebody can hear my name and this can make them hungry, that would be pretty cool. “Hiro Sone?” “Oh yeah, hungry.”


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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