Michelin star rated Chez TJ's Executive Chef Scott Nishiyama was one of this year's Rising Star Chefs. For the event, he served a Moulard duck foie gras, niege, blackberry, and sunchoke dish with house-mustard bread. BAB's Stephanie Im called this one "simply divine" in her coverage of the event. Another dish that clinched it according to the Star Chefs site was his sablefish with leeks fondue, Manila clams, Perigord truffle and potatoes Sarladaise. Before coming to Chez TJ, Nishiyama also cooked locally at Yoshi's, as well as for at the French Laundry for Thomas Keller, and for Daniel Boulud, and Laurent Tourondel.
Nishiyama is a native of Hawaii who was educated at MIT before becoming a chef. He was recently married to his wife Joy, who he met through an old college classmate from MIT. In keeping with his chef background, the focus was on the food, and the location was at the Carneros Inn, a wine country destination. Nishiyama sounded like he was smiling on the phone when he reported on the nuptials: "We spent most of the time with family and friends. Everyone had a great time, and we were there for a week."
Tied House, next door to Chez TJ. "It's right next door. They have good beer there." If ever you wanted to see cooks from a Michelin star rated restaurant, this might be the spot.
Sumiya: for what he calls "authentic Japanese BBQ" yakitori. "I go for the more adventurous skewers, like beef tongue, and chicken heart. My favorite is chicken cartilage. I love it because of the texture. That little crunch in the mouth…."
Cheeseboard Pizza, "When I used to live in Emeryville, I'd always pick up a cheese pizza there on my day off. They have such great selection, and I'd get some cheese next door, too."
Berkeley Bowl: "I like to find different ingredients and produce (at Berkeley Bowl). They have a such a selection there."
Piperade: "The appetizers are amazing. Dungeness crab salad, piquillo peppers with goats cheese and raisins. Phenomenal."
Nopa: "Very authentic and fresh."
Nopalito: "Done well."
For desserts, Michael Mina is "phenomenal. Catherine (Schimenti) is the pastry chef. Mina has a great idea, of doing the three components on the plate."
Nishiyama considers RN74 to be a great spot to "hang out and get a drink."
To get a sweet fix, Nishiyama indulges at Market Hall, in Rockridge, where he likes to pick up a bag of Ricciarelli's almond cookies. "They are phenomenal. I could eat a dozen."
When he worked at Yoshi's, he'd go out to eat post-work at a lot of the Korean spots nearby. Japan town was another haunt during that job.