One of the few Australian restaurants ever to make it into the top ten of Restaurant magazine’s Best Restaurants in the World, Tetsuya’s started in a tiny building in Sydney’s Rozelle. Moving to the city in 2000, it was the Good Food Guide’s Restaurant of the Year in 2007. The fixed price degustation menu combines Australian, Japanese and classic French influences. The Tasmanian Ocean Trout is one of the signature dishes.
While ‘fusion cuisine’ has been responsible for many bizarre creations, Tetsuya Wakudo creates fusion food at its best. He combines classic French techniques with the Japanese philosophy of using natural seasonal flavours.
Arriving in Australia at the age of 22, speaking very little English, he started as a kitchen hand. In 1983 he met Tony Bilson, then chef at Kinsela’s in Sydney’s Darlinghurst. Bilson offered him a job making sushi and introduced him to classic French cooking.
Leaving Kinsela’s, Tetsuya worked in several restaurants before opening his own, Ultimo’s, in partnership with a former head waiter from Kisela’s. In 1989, he opened his eponymous restaurant in Rozelle. It initially seated only 34 people and the staff consisted of one kitchen hand, Tetsuya in the kitchen, his then wife helping now and then, and two casual front-of-house staff.
The capacity of the Rozelle restaurant eventually expanded somewhat to around 65. It became a must for visiting celebrities, including Bill Gates’ wife Melinda, who visited during the 2000 Olympics. In November 2000, Tetsuya’s moved to new premises in Kent Street, Sydney, on the site of the previous Suntory restaurant, a capacious space that included a wine cellar with room for 40,000 bottles. At that time the degustation menu was priced at $145 per head. As of 2020, it was $250.
Tetsuya has received international recognition. In 2013 the Japanese Government named him as a Master of Cuisine – the first chef not based in Japan to receive this honour. He is also the first person outside of Japan to be appointed as a Sake Ambassador.
Tetsuya’s restaurant in Singapore, Waku Ghin, was ranked number nine on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2015 list in March 2015. He has also won the prestigious Diners Club® Lifetime Achievement Award – Asia 2015.