Aeron Choo, the chef-owner of Kappou since 2016, has built a formidable legacy as a pioneer in the traditional realm of Japanese dining.
WHAT DOES THE TERM “GAME CHANGER” MEAN TO YOU?
Someone who has done or is doing something outside of convention, defying cultural norms, and breaking out of the stereotype that society or the industry places on them.
HOW WOULD YOU SAY YOU’VE PLAYED YOUR PART TO BE A GAME CHANGER IN YOUR INDUSTRY?
In traditional Japanese culture, women are not allowed to be sushi chefs. But I opened Kappou in 2016, becoming the first female chef-owner of a kappou sushi omakase restaurant in Singapore.
WHAT HAVE BEEN THE HIGHLIGHTS AND MAJOR CHALLENGES OF YOUR JOURNEY?
When I first embarked on my culinary journey in Japanese cuisine, I travelled to Japan to look for training opportunities but was met with endless rejection. No restaurant was willing to take me in, until I met my mentor.
I started off as a dishwasher before slowly and arduously working my way up to take on more responsibilities in the kitchen. Initially, my presence wasn’t even acknowledged in the kitchen even though I secretly helped the chef with simple tasks like chopping ingredients. Once I got started in Japanese cuisine, I was so captivated and couldn’t get out of it anymore.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT YOURSELF, YOUR MOTIVATIONS AND YOUR FIELD THROUGH THAT PROCESS?
I’ve learnt that nothing can change my mind when I set my sights on something, no matter what stands in the way. I want the chance and power to better protect the tremendously beautiful culture of Japanese cuisine, even though I’m not Japanese. I’m driven by the desire to show my respect, passion and vision for the Japanese food culture and that I am willing to give it my all. This is my biggest motivation to keep me going.
WHAT ARE SOME CHANGES YOU’D LIKE TO SEE IN YOUR INDUSTRY AND HOW WOULD YOU SEE YOUR ROLE IN INFLUENCING IT?
The industry is still strongly male-dominated, and there is room for more women chefs. I hope my example is able to give encouragement to other aspiring women chefs, to show them that with passion and grit they can also pursue their culinary dreams.
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE YOUR PURPOSE?
I love to reach out to share with and educate anyone who loves to discover more about anything related to Japanese food culture, to keep the craft alive. When guests are at my restaurant, Kappou, they get to feel the heritage of Japanese culture through the journey of our omakase experience, which introduces not just the 72 micro-seasons but also ikebana (the Japanese art of flower arrangements) and kakejiku (traditional Japanese painting and calligraphy).
In addition, I keep expanding my knowledge by going to Japan regularly for training at prestigious longstanding ryotei that have gained worldwide acclaim so that one day I can realise my dream of opening a school to mentor students on the craft of Japanese cuisine.
PHOTOGRAPHY ZANTZ HAN
STYLING GREGORY WOO
ART DIRECTION MARISA XIN
HAIR SHA SHAMSI, USING KMS
MAKEUP WEE MING, USING DIOR BEAUTY
STYLING ASSISTANTS YULIA SEE AND VANESSA GRACE NG
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