Getting to Know Nobu

Nobu Matsuhisa is one of the most famous chefs in the world, but only his friends get to see the person behind the celebrity chef veneer. We asked them to talk about the Nobu they know.

David Rockwell on Nobu’s wellness routine, and his dream brand extension:

He does a lot of yoga and is incredibly flexible. You know, it’s something I envy because that’s where we couldn’t be more different. I am a high-impact guy opposed to a yoga-stretching guy.

I’m a city person, so an extraordinary Nobu-style spa with the same notion of omakase, giving the evolving sense of how to mini-vacation.

Daniel Boulud on their travel memories:

With Nobu it’s always a riot. Once we were on the beach of the Dead Sea. It was kind of a cold day, but we needed to experience what its like to soak your butt in the Dead Sea. First, you rub yourself with black dirt. So they bring us barrel of that wet, black, warm dirt—which is really very healthy—and we’re covering ourselves with it in our bathing suits. Then I grabbed a handful of black dirt in and pulled down the pants of Nobu, put it in his pants, and smacked his butt. It was a spontaneous moment where I thought Nobu was gonna drown me in the Dead Sea.

Eric Ripert on Nobu’s way of ditching a party:

What I find very funny about him is that after we work together and have a long day, he likes to go wild. So we open some tequilas and we’re drinking and hes going wild, wild, wild. Hes genius at bringing you into the party and then [all of the sudden] he’s gone. When you see him the morning at 6 or 7 a.m., hes fresh like a flower, and hes laughing.

Florence Fabricant on Nobu’s personality:

Despite everything, hes a modest person, and he is funny, and very self-effacing, but thats a characteristic that a lot of great chefs happen to have. Jacques Pépin, I mean, has this low-key wit and is also extremely self-effacing. Paul Bocuse will make fun of himself all the time. Nobu is not pretentious. I think what hed been through, including having his restaurant in Anchorage, Alaska, burn down on its first anniversary on Thanksgiving Day is enough to make anybody a bit humble.

Robert De Niro on their friendship:

Well, I got to tell you, that Nobu—hes a spiritual type of person. I guess I can say that I got that from him. The things he says and does, aside from the whole restaurant experience. Over the years, Nobu and I have become friends, when before we were just working together. He has a great sense of humor. We can laugh about a lot of stuff. That helps. Hes an extremely hard worker, obviously, and cares about how things are done. Im sure in some way thats tied to the Japanese tradition. Its very special. Im very fortunate to have a partner like him.

Want to find out how Nobu Matsuhisa turned a humble sushi bar in Beverly Hills into a global restaurant and hotel empire? Read more about our Travel Issue cover subject here

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