BRAS KARUIZAWA SIMONE CANTAFIO
Bras Karuizawa Simone Cantafio
Announcing of postpone of our opening
We are very sorry to announce that Bras Karuizawa Simone Cantafio will postpone its opening for now, originally scheduled in 22 July 2020 due to the world breakout of COVID-19. Date of reservation starts from 20 April will also be rescheduled in later date.
We are deeply sorry for who have been looking forward to the opening so as who are in Karuizawa supporting and making their own efforts for us, we are in same hearts.
We will keep watching the situation carefully and shall make notice for opening date accordingly
Till then, we pray from bottom of our hearts for the world’s happiness and brighter days to return, we remain.
From Bras family
- Sebastien & Michel ©BRAS KARUIZAWA
From Laguiole to Toya to Karuizawa
Michel & Sebastien Bras
When we first visited Lake Toya in response to an invitation to open a restaurant in Japan, we were moved by its beauty. The place is not easily accessible and is subject to harsh winters, but from the start, we found its endless sky and landscape surrounded by the sea, mountains and lakes enchanting.
Bras cuisine starts with understanding the locale and focusing on nature. This is why we would not even consider bringing Laguiole-style menus or ingredients to Karuizawa. So before deciding to open a restaurant in Karuizawa, we visited Tokyo, Kyoto, Kobe and other places throughout Japan. We were not even thinking about finding a convenient location or attracting customers from Tokyo. What we hoped to find was the climate, soil, natural environment, produce, and air that fit Bras cuisine. And this was what brought us to Karuizawa. The natural abundance, lush forests and Mt. ASAMA are very similar to where our main restaurant is located, Laguiole, France.
Our stance on cooking has always been to be in step with local producers and create dishes that make the best use of local ingredients, and at Karuizawa, this will not change. Like at our main restaurant in France, we have a vegetable garden on the premises with about 150 types of vegetables. Even before cooking, we put in time and effort to first learn about the ingredients, then how to produce them, and then, like farmers, to truly value them — this is l’esprit Bras.
Chef Director Simone Cantafio
I first met the Bras family about 10 years ago when I was 23 and starting my career as a cook.
I remember carrying my knife case and walking into one of the most prestigious French restaurants, Maison Bras. Back then, all I wanted was to grow and fulfill my dreams.
I settled into the restaurant team in Laguiole, isolated on the vast Aubrac plateau. Over time, I started to grasp its unique philosophy and spirit, beyond the recipes. Michel and Sébastien taught me how to observe the ingredients, including their “soul”, and also to respect and value the work of every one who participates to our Maison’s daily life.
They often asked me why, as an Italian, I choose to specialize in French cuisine. To me, cooking knows no borders. Cooking is about men and women dedicated to their work, with true passion and humility. They all know the art of sharing happiness and providing it to others.
Just like any other artistic expression, cooking requires freedom. “I cook therefore I am” could be my motto. I let all my emotions, memories, discoveries, and Life itself, transform into my cooking, in complete freedom.
I am deeply grateful to the Bras family who, from the very first day, understood the sensibility and values I have been putting into my work.
And today, I remain strongly attached to their family. Each day I keep following what I have learned from them, beyond the recipes: a special breath, a unique way of thinking and gazing at the amazing grace we call life, with all the precious gifts from our planet.
The Bras family taught me to keep challenging myself, with the same enthusiasm I had when I started my career at 18.
Today at Toya, tomorrow in Karuizawa, our aim will be to keep listening and discovering, in order to reveal all about the magic of the land.
And then, translate it with passion into a fine cuisine to share with our guests.”
Chef Simone Cantafio was born in 1986 in Rho, Italy, a town very close to the city of Milan. However, his family hails from a place located at the very tip of Italy’s boot, Calabria.
After graduating from Milan’s Carlo Porta Professional Institute for Food and Hospitality Services, in 2003, he began his career as a full-fledged chef in a Michelin 2-Star restaurant in Milan at the age of 17. In 2005, he began studying with Gualtiero Marchesi, Italy’s first Michelin 3-Star Chef. And in 2008, he traveled to France to further refine his culinary skills by studying with another Michelin 3-Star Chef, Georges Blanc.
In 2010, Chef Cantafio began working at Michel and Sebastien Bras’ restaurant in Laguiole, France, Le Suquet. There, he learned that the creation of the best food begins before cooking with the growing, nurturing and preparation of the very best of ingredients.
In early 2015, Chef Cantafio became the Chef Director at the first Bras branch restaurant, the Michel Bras TOYA Japon. There, he visited farmers around Toya and other parts of Hokkaido with the aim of using, as much as possible and depending on the seasons and different types of harvests, local produce for local consumption.
The Bras Karuizawa Simone Cantafio will open in July 2020. It will be the first Bras restaurant named after a chef who does not hold the Bras family name. 2020 is also the year that marks Chef Cantafio’s 10th anniversary of being part of the Bras family.
- © J.C. Carbonne
(Kengo Kuma and Associates)
My first meeting with Chef Michel Bras was unforgetable. Of the countless design meetings I've ever experienced, it was, by far, the most unique. Instead of talking about how he wanted a building designed, how much space he wanted, or how many seats he wanted, he quietly read aloud a poem.
Words and phrases such as two plates, leaping, flying, bold, flowing, opening outward, plant, and like a breath still remain in my notepad. I do not remember how these were connected, but I do remember the beauty and rhythm of his low voice. What I learned that day was that one poem can more accurately express a person’s feelings about designing a building than a thousand sentences.
Another thing I cannot forget is the first time I ate something Chef Bras made called gargouillou. He explained it was named after the local vegetables from where he is from. What came to mind then was gargouille, an architectural term that looks and sounds very similar to the name of the dish and describes a grotesque figure with a spout designed to convey water from a roof. In European Gothic architecture, rather than having rainwater flow down the side of a building, it is common to have gargouilles discharge rainwater into the air as countless drops of water that fall to earth. Many gargouilles are shaped like strange creatures with mouths that spew rainwater into the air, making them quite spectacular. When I ate this dish of many kinds of vegetables that Chef Bras made, I pictured drops of rainwater cascading from gargouilles.
I traced the etymology of gargouille and found there is a theory that states that the word is actually an approximation of the sound that people make when gargling. In both Japan and Europe, there are similar words that describe spouting water or vegetable dishes. I think it could even describe the sound of liquid flowing through a creature and the proof of life itself is conveyed to us through that sound.
The roof we designed for the Bras restaurant in Karuizawa was inspired by gargouilles and it was built using lava rock from Mt. Asama. In this area, lava rocks are used as weights to keep roof boards from blowing away. I can imagine water flowing between the gaps in the lava rock when it rains. This probably makes a beautiful sound much like water flowing through a gargouille. And that probably sounds similar to liquid flowing through the veins of vegetables.
2147-635 Nagakura Karuizawa-machi, Kitasaku-gun, Nagano-ken 389-0111 Japan