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Takashi Yagihashi, Executive Chef of Tribute
in Farmington Hills, Michigan Receives
James Beard Association's 2003
Best Midwest Chef Award
By Sylvia Rector, Detroit Free Press
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News 

May 7, 2003 - Takashi Yagihashi, the French-trained, Japanese-born executive chef of Tribute in Farmington Hills, returns from New York today with one of the culinary world's most prestigious honors -- the James Beard Association's 2003 Best Midwest Chef award. 

Tribute's menu changes with the seasons and the availability of fresh ingredients, but one dish guests have come to expect is the Delice of Seafood. 

Served as a first plate or appetizer, it includes a selection of bite-size, jewel-like seafood delicacies, most showing an Asian influence. 

Here are the selections included on a recent menu: 

--Seviche of Taylor Bay scallop with lemon oil. 

--Crispy tuna cake with soy mustard. 

--Roulade of Gulf shrimp with hot and sour sauce. 

--House-smoked salmon with horseradish creme fraiche. 

--Kumamoto oyster with lemongrass dashi granite, wasabi tobiko. 

Nominated three times before and competing this year, as always, in a field dominated by high-profile Chicago chefs, Yagihashi hadn't counted on bringing home the gold this time. 

"I'm very, very happy," the elated chef said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "I was hoping, but I didn't have confidence I would get it. Sometimes, James Beard doesn't do what you think," he said of the unpredictable organization. 

Only two other Michigan chefs -- Harlan (Pete) Peterson of Tapawingo in Ellsworth and Jimmy Schmidt of the Rattlesnake Club in Detroit -- have ever been nominated, and Schmidt, in 1993, was the lone previous Michigan winner. 

It seemed only a matter of time, though, before Yagihashi claimed the award. Since leaving Ambria in Chicago to help launch Tribute in 1996, he and the restaurant have enjoyed a steadily growing national reputation. 

First nominated for the Beard award in 1999, Yagihashi was named a year later as one of Food & Wine's 10 best new chefs in America. In 2000, Tribute became the first Detroit Free Press Restaurant of the Year, and it's the only Michigan venue on Gourmet's list of the nation's 50 best dining destinations. 

Yagihashi's cuisine is exquisitely detailed and highly original, combining Asian and Western ingredients and techniques in a style he describes as "contemporary French with an eclectic Asian twist." 

Rarely seen ingredients sprinkle the menu; a recent one includes salsify, quince, fresh water chestnuts and a Tibetan citrus fruit called yuzu. Overall, however, the food is surprisingly approachable. 

Prices, of course, are less so: First courses are in the $13-$19 range, while entrees run in the $30s. 

The awards ceremony -- part of a gala evening that also celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birth of James Beard, the father of American cuisine -- will be broadcast later this spring on the A&E cable network, said Tribute maitre d' Mickey Bakst, who also attended the event. 

The 2,000 guests included food writers, cookbook authors, star chefs and restaurateurs from all over the country. 

"I think all of New York wanted him to win," Bakst said of Yagihashi's award. "It's wonderful to see how we, as a Detroit restaurant, are accepted by all of the greats." 

Other chefs nominated in the Midwest region were Paul Kahan of Blackbird in Chicago; Tony Mantuano, Spiaggia, Chicago; Roger Johnsson, Aquavit, Minneapolis, and Michael Kornick, MK, Chicago. 

Yagihashi, 44, couldn't point to a particular event or dish that made this different from his three prior nominations. 

"It's not one reason," he said. "Every day we work together and everybody helps each other. I am on the stage, but it's everyone," from Bakst to pastry chef Michael Laiskonis and sous chefs Gabriel Lacouture, Jeff Rose and Bill Apodaca, he said. 

He also emphasized the importance of his family -- his wife, Kathy, and their two children -- in his career success. Because of them, he said, "I'm a very happy person." 

-----To see more of the Detroit Free Press, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to 

(c) 2003, Detroit Free Press. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. 


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