Kai Masuchika

State College, Pennsylvania 

Intern #114 

 

I’ve been doing kitchen work since I was allowed to legally work, and even before that,

when it wasn’t quite legal to work. Entering highschool, I enrolled in the culinary arts program

that was offered and fell in love with cooking. To be honest, I don’t really remember why I did it

in the first place, whether it be the amount of Iron Chef Japan I watched growing up, or reading

Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, I think I’ve always been fascinated by cooking. So at

14 I got a job as a dishwasher. It was not very fun. But I stuck with it, as I was learning a lot from

the chefs there. All of them crazy smart and mad scientist at the same time. At the age of 15

they decided it was time to move me to the line.

 

I’m now 23, and no matter what’s happened to me, I’ve always been cooking in

someway or another. As I delved deeper and deeper into the world of culinary arts, I’ve wanted

to become more aware of what I was cooking with. Knowing where the food was coming from,

when was it harvested, and what’s the name of the person for grew it. The idea of growing a

connection between the people that make the food, and the people cook and serve it, is

something that excites me greatly.

 

One night after a shift that was less than fun, I was laying in bed and just for fun,

honestly not really knowing what I was doing, looked up internships in Japan. After about 20

minutes of search I stumbled across The Obubu Tea Farms. A 3 month long internship where

interns get to work for a small tea company, and see the entire process from harvesting to how

to run a business. It was kind of perfect. A chance to reconnect with my Japan heritage and to

see the process of making tea from the field to the cup was just too much to give up. So after a

bit of time, I got accepted, and flew from my family, friends, and cat to the middle of Japan.

While here I’ve learned so much about the process of making tea as well as gaining a

general knowledge about tea as an important part of Japanese culture. I felt an immediate

connection, but with my limited knowledge, I had a hard time putting it to any use. The thing

was, it was right in front of me. I was gaining a love for tea, but how to connect it with my

passion? Cooking with tea became my personal project. Matcha fried fish with black tea

aromatics, Slow braised pork shoulder with gyokuro shiitake rice, genmaicha white chocolate

brownies; the staff at Obubu allowed me as much creativity as I wanted. This helped me not

only become a much better chef, but improve myself as a person, to rely on the skills I honestly

didn’t think I had. So after making 6 dishes (appetizer all the way to desserts) I feel my love for

cooking igniting again, and can’t wait to see what I can make next.

 

You can find out more about my experience in Obubu in a video below: