Tiny Tokyo Kitchen, Tokyo Sampler at Kanto.com.ph

Tokyo Sampler

Sararīman Lloyd Besin whips up a culinary storm in his two-square-meter Tokyo kitchen

Interview Patrick Kasingsing
Images Lloyd Roy Besin

こんにちは! Please introduce yourself.

Hi! My name is Lloyd. I’m a converted “salaryman” by day and a pretend-chef by night.

Have you always been crazy about food and gastronomy?

I grew up surrounded by good food and cooking and was lucky enough to be independent from 17. I moved to Manila from Cebu for university and had to fend for myself by learning to cook. Relocating to Tokyo in 2011, however, would have to be the strongest trigger. The Japanese’s level of sophistication and respect for food is just a whole other world.

Your Instagram account is filled to the brim with beautifully styled dishes, often accompanied with little anecdotes of where you got your ingredients or found inspiration for it. How has Tokyo nurtured the foodie in you? And what finally pushed you to start the Tiny Tokyo Kitchen account?

Cooking has always been a channel for me to discover and rediscover myself. I’ve been lucky enough to call Tokyo home for over eight years now. This has allowed me to experience the best that the city has to offer and meet people who share the same love for good food. As for my Instagram account, it is surprisingly a recent addition. I broke my left hand terribly while doing Crossfit and decided to start posting my photos as a distraction while rehabilitating.

What do you love most about the process of cooking and preparing food?

My mood greatly affects the choices I make while grocery shopping and my current state of mind inspires my cooking. The books I read, conversations I’ve had, recent travels or experiences also influence my choices in the kitchen. Cooking is a great way to gain insight into where I am at that moment in time.

You hail from Cebu, one of the country’s gastronomic hotspots. Have you found yourself experimenting and fusing Sugbu fare with Tokyoite staples?

I would love to. There is low awareness for Filipino food [here], and I am still trying to figure out the right balance in developing content. I would like to keep my content fresh but still be inclusive to the majority of my followers who are from Japan.

Live Japanese prawns “kuruma ebi,” grilled with “nanohana” broccoli rape greens, Header: The makings of a seafood tapas plate

Do you have a set weekly menu of dishes you cook or do you decide what to cook on the fly?

Spontaneous and seasonal, well-inspired by Japanese cooking.

You capture your impeccably styled dishes beautifully with photography. How did you develop an eye for styling and shooting food? What is your process for documentation after food has been prepared?

Let me keep this my trade secret, but there really is no rule book. I love design and good style—things I have not had much chance to communicate through my content so far. I think if you share the same love for beautiful things, it translates into everything you do.

Would you say the limitations of a tiny Tokyo kitchen helped you better your craft as a cook?

Definitely. My two-square-meter kitchen has taught me to balance good timing, neatness, and an orderly manner of cooking.

What insights have you gained having been immersed for a while in Japanese food culture?

I have a lot of respect for Japanese food culture. There is great respect for local produce, seasonal ingredients, and the freshest quality. All good food starts from the source.

Homemade gyoza

I have a lot of respect for Japanese food culture. There is great respect for local produce, seasonal ingredients, and the freshest quality. All good food starts from the source.

Lloyd: Making fish carpaccio is so much more fun in Japan—with easy access to the best seafood. Using red sea bream with the autumn flavor of zesty yuzu citrus

In this day and age of countless Instagram food posts, food tasting vlogs, and the resto flatlays, what aspect/s of preparing and enjoying food do you think we should pay more attention to?

Where our food comes from, buying local and seasonal, and reducing waste.

Have you ever thought of opening up your own restaurant?

Yes actually, a pop-up restaurant is in the works this Spring. I’m partnering with a friend, and we’re planning it as 一見さんお断り which is like a “members-only” pop-up idea.

As a long-time Tokyoite, what dish would you prepare for a first-timer that is evocative of the city?

Anything seasonal, a teishoko (meal set) with pickles and miso soup.

What’s the most difficult dish you’ve prepared so far? Can you tell us how you went about it?

I think the most difficult part with cooking in Tokyo isn’t the cooking but the process of shopping, knowing what you want, understanding what is seasonal, and knowing how to cook them. These days, I reduce the anxiety by visiting a nearby farmers’ market and speaking with the producers themselves to learn about what is seasonal and what they suggest I do with it.

Where do you intend to take Tiny Tokyo Kitchen next?

A successful pop-up restaurant run and maybe even publish a book or a regular digital newsletter at some point •

Japanese oshoku: Spicy mentaiko and ikura on a pasta.

We should pay more attention to where our food comes from, buy local and seasonal, and reduce waste.

Spicy Keema “Tamago Kake Gohan” Curry for a rainy, late winter evening.

More of Lloyd’s gastronomical explorations and market finds at @tinytokyokitchen

The story first appeared in the Craft issue

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