News & Events - A-JIS Food News

Meet Aleks Vasilev, our Assistant Kitchen Manager!

Aleks Vasilev, from Cezars Kitchen, is our School’s Assistant Kitchen Manager! He is originally from Macedonia and has been living 12 years in Japan. Who didn’t dream about traveling and seeing world? He wasn’t the exception so he worked around Europe and traveled around Asia before ending up in Tokyo. Get to know more about Mr. Vasilev!

 

Where are you from?

I am from Macedonia, which is located at south east Europe. We have Bulgaria and Greece as neighbors.

Since when are you living in Japan?

It has been already 12 years in Japan. My fist station was Matsumoto, in Nagano. I moved then to Tokyo because of my friends. By that time, I was still in my late twenties.

What brought you to Japan?

I wasn’t actively planing to come and live in Japan one day. When I was a kid, my dream was to travel, so I did that in Europe. I lived in England, France, Spain… I have also visited several countries in Europe and decided to go to the next step, Asia. At the beginning I was thinking more in Thailand, India or China but a friend of mine proposed Japan so, why not? As an exchange student I ended up in Matsumoto. After 3 years in Japan, you get use to it, it becomes your second home and I decided to stay.

What do you like most of living here?

I still don’t know Tokyo, it’s so big! I really like the area where I live. I like that the atmosphere is quite and peaceful. I lived before in Roppongi for 3 or 4 years. When you are young it’s ok but now I am not young anymore (laughs) Here, you have more space and freedom.

How do you spend your free time?

I spend my free time with the family. I help with the duties at house, I spent time with my wife and my children. If I had time for myself, I would do more sports, go cycling, listen to music, watch movies… Now I am doing gardening as well at my house.

Have you lived or worked in other countries as well?

I worked in England in Hilton High Park Hotel in London and other places for 3, 4 years. Also in Greece I have worked for many hotels, where it’s all about hospitality. I cooked different in different countries. Greece has Italian, Morocco and Mediterranean influences, England has French influences and here in A-JIS we do a lot of asian cooking.

What do you feel most proud of?

My kids, that’s the best thing in life. Thats the sweetest thing, I don’t know when they grow up (laughs). Also, I am satisfied because I try to make the best of everyday, be happy with what I do, enjoy my work.

What age do you feel right now and why?

I feel like I become 30 or something. When I was becoming 30, I felt not very different from 20s, and you realize its like that you don’t suddenly become wiser. You just have more experiences, make less mistakes, take your life easier.

Since when are you working in the kitchen?

Since I was 19 or 20.

Why did you choose this profession?

Everybody like food and it’s important for everybody’s life. Food is a basic need and you can’t go wrong. People want to eat. I guess I have chosen this profession because it gives you a good balance, mental and physical: you cut, you cook, you think, you talk… it’s not only sitting down. I like that movement in the kitchen and cooking is a passion. Before, I worked in restaurants and now in a school, it’s so different! My uncle, my mother and one of my dearest friends are chefs, probably I got indirectly influenced by them.

How were your first steps in this field?

My first steps were in Greece, where I began to work in a hotel. It was the first time I worked in the kitchen… they gave me a big bag of potatoes and I had to peel them. So I took a chair and sat there peeling the potatoes and the chef said “quicker!”. The first steps are like that because you don’t now how to cook at the beginning. Yes, you go to school and learn about the hygiene, etc. but you actually have to learn from everybody in the kitchen, especially with the chefs. So the more restaurants you go to work at, the more experience you got.

What are your strengths in the kitchen?

My strength is to cook good tasting dishes. That’s my goal and that’s what I do. Everything else is side work. I make quality and tasty food with a smile because when you are happy, they will notice it when they eat the food.

Which is your role in Cezar’s kitchen? What are your duties?

My role is assistant manager, which means same responsibilities as the kitchen manager but less headache.

Why do you enjoy working at Aoba?

Teachers are very friendly and nice, he environment is relaxed and the surroundings are beautiful!

European food week at school

We are having the European food week at school! Have a look at the delicious menu that Chef Andrea Cozzolino from Cezars prepared for us. The pictures speak for themselves:

 

Monday, Jul 31, 2017
France Beef Bourguignon
Buttered Corn
Steamed Broccoli
Mash Potato
Fresh Fruits

 

 

Tuesday, Aug 1, 2017
Italy Pizza Margherita
Cesar Salad
Buttered Corn
Herb Bread Rolls
Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

 

 

Wednesday, Aug 2, 2017
England Roast Pork w/ Brown Gravy
Olive & Cucumber Salad
Glazed Carrots Bubbles N Squeak
Banana Cake

 

 

 

 

Thursday, Aug 3, 2017
Greece Greek Chicken Gyros
Greek Salad
Pita Bread w/ Tzatziki Sauce
French Fries
Yogurt w/ Fruit

Meet Andrea Cozzolino, our Kitchen Manager!

Andrea Cozzolino, from Cezars Kitchen, is our School’s Kitchen Manager. He is originally from Florence and moved to Japan at the age of 21. He has been working in the kitchen for 30 years and in different countries. “If you choose a job you love, you will never have to work a day in your life” is the quote that shows his life philosophy. At Aoba, we really enjoy the food he and his great team carefully prepare for us!

Since when are you living in Japan?

I came on July 1991, when I was still 21 years old. Since then, I have been living in Miyazaki, Karuizawa, Gunma and Tokyo.

What brought you to Japan?

Because I used to watch Japanese movies and Manga. I really liked this Samurai called Kozure Ookami, he was the most good looking Samurai in the world for me. That’s why I start liking Japan. Also, by that time my brother was already here, running two restaurants.

What do you like most of living here?

Many things! The people, the food, Tokyo… I love big cities!

How do you spend your free time?

Gym, spending time with friends, painting… I use to paint flowers and women portraits. Two painters I really like are Picasso and Van Gogh. I used to sell a lot of my paintings.

Have you lived or worked in other countries as well? 

Yes. I was in Rotorua, a very small town in New Zealand, four hours by car from Auckland. By that time I was 22 and wanted to improve my English so I worked at a restaurant at night and learned English in the morning. I was also six months helping an Italian company opening restaurants in Phuket and Bangkok with other 5 chefs. I have experience opening restaurants and also owned 2, one in Italy and one in Tokyo, Roppongi. Also, I have opened many restaurant for different companies, doing the first setting up, finding the staff, running around 6 months to see how it goes. Restaurants are like newborns, you really have to take care of them in the beginning once they are still young.

What do you feel most proud of?

I have two beautiful children, that are healthy, thank God. Also for be doing what I like.

Who do you most admire in life?

I admire people who don’t get panic and never lose control, whatever happens. That’s what I am trying to learn.

What age do you feel right now and why?

35! Because I can do any physical exercise and it’s not a problem. Also, I am always listening to modern music. I also enjoy talking with the kids and teens here. I need to be actualized because I have two kids myself. Talking with younger people makes you feel younger.

Since when are you working in the kitchen?

Since when I was 17. That’s already 30 years ago.

Why did you choose this profession?

Because I like it! Its a profession that you must like. Wherever you want to go you will always find a opportunity. It was really helpful to come to Tokyo as a Chef. You can find a job easily.

How were your first steps in this field?

Washing the dishes is the beginning. Then little by little the chef makes you do something and if you’re good at it you will do it again. If you start working for a restaurant and your goal is to be a chef, its not difficult. I am sure that if you have the goal, you will achieve it. Step by step, by doing it better everyday, by always improving.

What are your strengths in the kitchen?

I am very fast and I never panic. There is normally a lot of stress in the kitchen, but as Confucius said “if you choose a job you love, you will never have to work a day in your life”. The word work is feeling like stress, but if yo like your job, you really don’t go to work, you enjoy yourself working. I like my job, I like coming here, I wake up and I am happy to come here. Stress only comes when you don’t like something, the environment, the people around..

Which is your role in Cezars kitchen? What are your duties?

My title is Kitchen Manager. We are the Chef, we have to manage the staff, take care of the parties, allergies, etc.

Do you plan the school’s menu? What are important things to pay attention to?

Our company has many schools around Japan. My boss decides and sends us the food menu and I pick the days. I have to change the menu plan for those who have especial needs like allergies, Halal food or vegetarian. If is the Lasagna day and there is a little girl that can not eat egg, I would make a special Lasagna for her.

Do you get feedback from the students, teachers or staff from the food?

Yes, I get nice feedbacks from the people around the school, they just come by and tell it to me. Only once I got a critique, but that was really only one case, so I am really happy. Students, teachers and staff come and say things like “Chef, thank you very much!” Or “We like your pizza! When is the pizza day?”.

What (do you think) is the common favorite food between students?

The most popular ones are Pizza, Lasagna, Hamburger, Hotdogs…

How does a normal work day look like for you?

Everybody knows what to do already. We have a meeting once a week. Normally, we start preparing salad, dessert, main dish, bread… Everyone has her duties. Akiko does the bread and dessert, Alex does the vegetables and rice… I make the main dish or Alex makes it. It depends on the day.

Why do you enjoy working at Aoba?

Because I am a foreigner and everybody is so international here. I enjoy the diversity, the working style. Since I am here, nobody left from my team because of the working environment. I absolutely have a good team! My philosophy is “be a leader, not a boss”, you have to make them feel good, take care of them. I am in between my manager and my team so I must filter the information for them. Working just as you are working with your friends. I have learned through experience. When I opened my first restaurant with 29 years old, I still lacked of this sensitivity and leadership skill.

Fresh Baguettes are Here!

campusHello!

Now we are selling freshly baked baguettes! These baguettes are made with the traditional method of long fermentation of the dough to completely develop the flavor of the wheat. They are also rich in fiber because we introduce whole wheat in it, making them a very healthy and delicious option for our daily diet. Please give them a try!

Vegetable and Herb Garden News

From the beginning of Spring we have started to plant different vegetables and herbs in our garden which include tomatoes, peppers, basil, and thyme and many more. We we are looking forward to use them in the daily lunch whenever possible. We think it is is very important to provide the freshest ingredients and these are the freshest we can get. Also it helps the students get identified with the veggies they eat by observing and participating in their growth.

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