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.