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Behind the scenes at Izumi with Travis Kamiyama

By HannahFriday 17th June 2016

Travis Kamiyama Travis Kamiyama

For exotic Asian food with an extraordinary twist, there’s only one choice: Izumi. Available on many ships throughout the fleet, including Harmony of the Seas, Izumi serves up exotic delights, which are guaranteed to get your taste buds tingling. Diners can enjoy all kinds of delicious fare, from octopus sashimi and albacore tataki, to stone-grilled beef and shrimp wonton soup.

Recently, we had the opportunity to go behind the scenes at Izumi with Head Chef, Travis Kamiyama. Here’s what he had to say.

When did you start making sushi?

I started sushi at the age of 14, in the mid-80s. I had a mentor, he was a really cool sushi chef, kind of like my older brother, and he took me under his wing. He had a lot of passion, which was inspiring. I detoured for a little while – I was in business, with an economics degree – but, at the end of the day, I wanted to be in charge of my destiny. So I left the corporate world at the age of 29 and launched my own restaurant. Delicious! Delicious!

How did you get involved with Royal Caribbean?

I knew the Vice President of Food and Beverage at Celebrity Cruises, so it was through him that I was able to come into Royal Caribbean. In 2009, we launched our first Izumi on Oasis of the Seas. It went really well. The following year, I was on Allure of the Seas launching the second restaurant… and the rest is history. We’re at restaurant number 16 right now.

Do you get inspiration from the other Royal Caribbean chefs?

Indirectly, yes. We don’t actually get to see each other that much, maybe once a year, so we share ideas through social media and at events. I think I’m always getting inspiration, though, from looking at what’s hot or what’s cool right now. I try to be a pioneer in my own world. I don’t want to copy other people, but I’m open-minded. I’m a live learner, so if I see something unique, I pick it up. Sometimes, I actually learn from guests themselves. They’ll tell me about where they’ve been or something delicious they’ve eaten and I’ll take inspiration from that. The newest Izumi, onboard Harmony of the Seas. The newest Izumi, onboard Harmony of the Seas.

What is Izumi Express?

Izumi Express is a quick, takeaway service which we’re introducing right now. It’s packaged sushi, ready to go, at a very discounted price. We wanted to create something that’s quick and easy, something you can have right away and eat wherever you like. Sushi is great for this. In fact, sushi became very popular in the 1800s in Tokyo, when they were serving it from sushi carts at sumo wrestling matches. We’ve started rolling it out on a few ships already and it will be fleet-wide by 1st July. We’ve got special express carts and we’re going to create packages with up to eight sushi rolls.

How does cooking onboard compare to cooking on land?

It’s so different, like a whole other world. With any restaurant, the ingredients are the most important thing. Ideally you want to have local ingredients, but you can’t always get that on a cruise ship. On a massive cruise ship like ours, we have a supply chain that’s unheard of, and our flexibility and our adaptability is based on that supply chain. It takes 72 days for some of our containers to get from Miami to Australia or Asia, so you’ve got to work well ahead of the game. The stone-grilled beef is a popular dish. The stone-grilled beef is a popular dish. When I first joined Royal Caribbean, I found out about the supply chain and I found a way to work within that, while still being creative. We take simple ingredients and create amazing dishes, which is one of the hardest things to do. Taking basic ingredients and making something exceptional is hard. Anybody can go to the best market and pick the most expensive ingredients, but it’s what you can do with a simple ingredient that counts. To pull off our grade of sushi and the diversity of our menu, it’s quite ingenious, but it’s not easy.

Do you cook when you’re at home?

Cooking is something I do frequently. It’s what I love to do, so I do it all the time. On New Year’s Day, I spend the day making sushi platters for my family, friends and colleagues, and I’m doing it from my heart. A lot of our get-togethers are based on sushi, so I’ll go to the market and pick up beautiful scallops or tuna or oysters. Those are things that inspire me instantly. Travis, preparing some octopus. Travis, preparing some octopus.

How do you think food is changing?

Food is always changing. Our plating, our styles – things like sous vide and other cooking techniques. It’s going to continue to evolve. I take the best of the new techniques and implement them in my own cooking, in my own style. But we have our own unique culture, so I don’t necessarily want to follow other people. If I feel that it’s going to be advantageous or beneficial, I take it on and I try to open other peoples’ eyes. I think the minute that you stop learning or you stop inspiring these guys – my cooks and chefs – is the day that we shut down. Food has to be exciting, it has to be fresh and it has to be innovative.

Hungry?

Plan your next holiday with Royal Caribbean and dig in to a delicious meal (or two!) at Izumi.

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