Tokyo,
California Style

From Farm to Table

  • Photography by Kazufumi Shimoyashiki
  • Coordination by Asagi Maeda
  • Editing & Text by Tamio Ogasawara
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The farmers grow their crops with pride, packing them straight from the fields for delivery.

At the restaurant, the chef looks over the day’s shipment to create a fresh and flavorful menu.

This arrangement allows guests at the restaurant to experience the flavors of the earth directly, enriching the soul.

LOCALE, owned by Katy Cole, centers its menu on the principle of “farm to table.”

Through her open kitchen, she brings people together with lively conversation and delicious food that makes the most of her ingredients.

Katy Cole

Chef

Born in Los Angeles, USA. Studying cooking at Le Cordon Bleu in San Francisco, she gained experience at restaurants like Fork, Scott Howard, and State Bird Provisions, before opening LOCALE in Meguro in October 2017. The plates used at the restaurant were made by Katy at the ceramics studio.

When I stepped into the restaurant, I was enveloped in the classy, tasty smells I had encountered everywhere in San Francisco.

Arriving at nine-thirty in the morning, to find another group of customers already seated, I was greeted with a smile by Katy Cole from the open kitchen, where she was deftly roasting vegetables in a frying pan. “Can I get you something to drink?” “Sure, how about some coffee?” As soon as I ordered, the space filled with delicious aromas. I could smell bread being toasted. Peeking at the other table, I saw a delicious looking plate of pancakes and some toast topped off with perfectly sliced avocado. Taking one more look at the menu, I picked out what I thought the other guests had ordered, Banana Pancakes and Avocado Tartine with Dukkah. As I gazed out the window, I realized that the restaurant faced a golf school, where people carrying golf clubs were lining up outside.

They must open at ten, I thought. Before I knew it, the place started filling up. Pleasant faces all around—foreigners who seemed like they lived in the neighborhood and came by regularly, couples in running clothes that had stopped in for a bite before they ran back home.

Chef and owner of LOCALE, Katy Cole relocated to Japan from San Francisco, before opening her own restaurant here on October 3rd, 2017. LOCALE is one block from the Meguro River, on an oddly busy side street popular as a shortcut.

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Tuesday Market

One of four weekly outdoor markets in Kochi City. Shops line Kamimachi from 4-chome to 5-chome, one block south of the central thoroughfare where streetcars travel east and west. Inakazushi, made using vegetables and konnyaku, is a local delicacy of Kochi. We tried a variation made from rice wrapped in konnyaku. It was delicious. Market runs from roughly 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

“My first trip to Japan was for ten days,” Katy tells me. “A customer at the place I worked in San Francisco was building a pizza oven in Shiga, so I tagged along. Back then, I was going through a period where I knew I had to make a change, and I guess I felt like I had found it in Japan. If I was going to do this, I wanted to focus on the California cuisine I knew best, basing the restaurant on the “farm to table” concept, which is standard practice in San Francisco. I want to support the farmers by ordering directly from the farms, and to share the appeal of their produce through my cooking. I think that using good ingredients is much more important than technique, because of all the care that goes into them. Currently, I’m working with farmers in Kochi, Hokkaido, and Ome, in the western part of Tokyo. I’m lucky to have made one trip down to Kochi, but haven’t made it to the Nakazato Nature Farm, one of my suppliers. It’s a small organic farm run by a couple, and the wife, Sakiko, has been kind enough to come by LOCALE for a meal. I keep telling myself that I gotta make it down there!”

Second time in Kochi.
First time at Nakazato Nature Farm

We arrived in Kochi City at nine in the morning on a beautiful clear day, but before our visit to the Nakazato Nature Farm, we stopped by the Tuesday Market, one of the city’s farmer’s markets. It’s called the “Tuesday Market” because it’s held every Tuesday. There are also markets held on Thursday, Friday and Sunday, with the “Sunday Market” having the most vendors. Each market is held in a different place, and the Tuesday Market, on the smaller side, consists of a few dozen shops set up on platforms laid across a narrow canal. More so than tourists, the market attracts people from the area, out shopping for the week. The tradition started 300 years ago, when fathers would grow the vegetables and mothers would bring them to market. Katy made an effort to communicate with vendors and bought some vegetables from local farms.

After the Tuesday Market, we drove about an hour, arriving at the Nakazato Nature Farm in Kure, Nakatosa around noontime. Backed by mountains and facing the sea, this is a place of natural beauty, with nearby Ono no Hama a famous beach for surfing. Which makes sense, since just as we arrived, two women who anybody would have recognized as surfers stopped by to say hello. They evidently order vegetables from Nakazato every week, but since they were surfing in the area, they decided to visit the farm.

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Nakazato Nature Farm

Located west of Kochi City in Kure, Nakatosa. The farm grows about fifty kinds of vegetables year round, while keeping free-range “Tosa Jiro” chickens and Japanese honey bees. They also grow pomelo and konatsu on the hill behind the farm, which offers a prime view of Ono no Hama, a surfing destination. They feed the microbes to keep the soil healthy, sow their seeds, and spend several months growing the vegetables, which are shipped on the day they’re harvested. They grow grass on the paths between rows in the fields, since the roots keep water from puddling. “Seasonal Vegetable Mixes” can be ordered through their website.

5840 Kure Nakatosa-cho Takaoka-gun Kochi
farmnakazato.theshop.jp

On Sunday mornings, the big counter becomes a place for kids here with their families to play.

The Nakazato Nature Farm was started seven years ago by Takuya Nakazato, and when he and Sakiko got married, they began working together. Avoiding all pesticides and chemical fertilizers, they utilize open-field production and organic fertilizers to grow about fifty different vegetables throughout the year, adapting to the seasons. In addition to the standard Japanese vegetables, they also grow specialty crops like beets, kale and mixed greens. “Japan doesn’t have a huge variety of vegetables,” says Takuya. “Every day is trial and error, planting new things and giving up on others. The summers are too hot for growing vegetables, and a typhoon could easily blow away a field of crops. It’s sad, but that’s the way it goes. We build this into our schedule.” Sakiko adds that “critters snack on the crops all the time. They know when the flavor is at its peak, savoring nearly every morsel of ripe corn. I wish I could make a deal and give them three cobs, if they promised to be done with it! Shipping our produce directly to Katy keeps the spirit of our work intact, and knowing that she feels the same and makes the most of these ingredients fills my heart. I could really feel this when I went to eat at LOCALE.”

Takuya studied evolutionary biology in the United States, doing research and teaching for twenty years before returning to the land his grandmother called home, which he had visited since he was small. Sakiko, relocating to the area as well, met Takuya in Kochi. Since we had arrived at lunchtime, we were treated to platters of katsuo tataki and home cooking prepared with freshly picked vegetables.

“There’s nothing quite like eating broccolini or Autumn Poem (asparana) where it’s grown,” says Katy. Seated in the field, she gazed out upon the rows of growing vegetables. “You can really taste the love. They have to watch the vegetables constantly, protecting them from rain and animals, but they give it everything they have. Whenever I open a box of their produce, I imagine Takuya and Sakiko out here. I feel so lucky I can share these authentic flavors through my cooking. It’s a warm reminder that my job is to connect producers with the customers who visit the restaurant.”

The day after visiting Kochi, a box of freshpicked vegetables arrived, complete with a message from Sakiko. Inside, Katy found a trove of vegetables, from the Autumn Poem and broccolini sampled in the field to carrots with the greens attached. She ordered so much early on that she started putting vegetables on the counter, no other place to put them.

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As long as it’s not raining, Katy rides her bike to work, with the belt of her spring coat tightly fastened.

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What matters most is making someone happy.

“The first time I came to Japan, my friends brought me to Beard, a restaurant where LOCALE is now. The food was so amazing. I knew I wanted to have a place like that someday. I also fell in love with the location.After graduating high school, I wasn't sure how I wanted to further my education, so I decided to go to cooking school in San Francisco and found my passion. After gaining experience at all kinds of restaurants, it was time for a change, so I came to Japan and had a bunch of serendipitous encounters. When I heard that Shin Harakawa of Beard was moving on to a new project, I asked if I could take over the space. The first time I ate at Beard was October 3, 2013. I opened LOCALE in the same spot on the exact same day, four years later. If I had never come to Japan, I guess I would be just another chef from California, working in a California kitchen. Being in Japan, I can make California cuisine to my heart’s content and keep it real. My mother passed away twelve years ago, but she inspired me to develop my own personal style, and having fun meals at the dinner table, as a family, was a formative experience for me. Cooking can get egotistical, and chefs often feel a kind of performance anxiety. If you worry too much, though, you can lose touch with the outside world. I want to be open and send everyone good energy. That way everyone can enjoy the amazing produce of these farms. If I make someone happy, that makes me happy, and keeps me motivated. Before I had a restaurant, I used to feel wiped out after working for the day, but now that I’m cooking from an open kitchen, it’s like I’m being energized all day long. If I get a nice message, I pay it forward, sending the good vibes to someone else. It’s all about the cycle. When we come together, we all thrive. Cooking is the ultimate cycle. We cultivate ingredients, prepare a meal, and convert what we eat into waste, which becomes compost and eventually turns into food again. That’s a healthy way to see the world.”

Katy chose the name “LOCALE” because she wanted her place to feel like home, almost like your favorite local coffee shop. Call to make a reservation, and you get Katy on the line. “LOCALE Tokyo. Sure, no problem, we’ll see you tomorrow.” This heartwarming place is open to all. It gives you life. All it takes is one discovery like this, and your life is richer.

A full moon shined over us on the drive back from Kochi. “The moon is the same color as the eggs I serve at breakfast.”

Though not included on the blackboard menu, Katy roasted vegetables from the Nakazatos and dressed them with a cashew sauce. One of Katy’s specialties, this is the epitome of farm to table.

Once the kids finish playing and head outside, the dads come by for brunch. Take a look around, and it’s easy to forget you’re in Japan. On weekdays, the restaurant is only open in the evenings, when customers strike up conversation and connect at the counter. Katy is especially pleased to see this happen, encouraging her guests. “Make yourselves at home!”

LOCALE Tokyo

Weekdays are dinner only. Daily courses range from ¥5,000 to ¥6,000, or pick from the menu on the blackboard. The weekend brunch vibes are unbeatable.

1-17-22 Meguro, Meguro-ku, Tokyo
+81 3 6874 6719
  • OPEN Wednesday-Saturday 18:00-22:00,
    Saturday and Sunday 9:30-14:30
  • CLOSED Monday and Tuesday

*Days and hours of operation subject to change.

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