Brunching at Locale by Katherine Cole

I had lived in Tokyo for years and if you know this amazing place, you also know that days don’t start early. Places usually open from 10am, if you are lucky. The trend of breakfasting is new in this hub. Breakfast is my favourite meal or is it the time of day I really like? I am not sure. I just like sunshine! Whatever it is I was thrilled to learn about this fantastic place to brunch at in Tokyo called Locale, run by Katherine Cole.

Please meet Katherine here and go by her wonderful restaurant. It is charming, personal, warm as all her cooking is locally sourced, farm to table, organic and whole hearted. You can taste it when the Chef has the wellbeing of the producers also on her mind. It tastes better!

Katherine Cole

Katie can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Katy Cole. 

I grew up in LA and moved to northern California at around 16.

Have you been interested in cooking all along?

I took a few culinary classes at a community college at 19 and something clicked.

I then decided to take a more serious route and entered the Le Cordon Bleu Culinary school is San Francisco. 

My cooking career began in the bay area worked at Michael Mina, SPQR, and the eponymous State Bird Provisions.

What brought you California girl to Japan?

I came to Japan the first time in October 2014 on a last minute travel with no big plans or expectations. At about 8 days into my 10-day trip I knew I wanted to come back.

About 6 months later I was in a transitional moment of my life. I had a serendipitous run in with a former customer at a pizza class I was helping to teach in San Francisco. He is an American who had been living in Japan for over 35 years. He mentioned that he was thinking to build a pizza oven in his backyard in Shiga and I offered to fly out and help with the build. So a few months later I found myself deep in the countryside of Japan. Something inside me was sure that Japan was where I was meant to be. 

I hosted several dinner parties and organized some collaborative events until I landed a job to organize and operate the food program at Garden House Crafts in Daikanyama. Through this I was able to connect with farmers around Japan and even produce a series of Farmer's Markets on the terrace of Garden House Crafts.

I spent some time traveling throughout different areas of Japan to visit the farms and develop a deeper relationship with the farmers and producers. Other chef friends and these farmers were happy to introduce me to know people as well.

When did you decide to open Locale? 

After about 2.5 years of living here I had the opportunity to take over the space that was formerly BEARD. I jumped at the chance to not only own my first restaurant, LOCALE, but also to have the forum to showcase the work of these very special and hardworking farmers. (*I opened Locale exactly 4 years to the day as my first visit to BEARD, October 3rd)

It has really been a lucky experience to be able to follow my heart and find my own style and so fulfilling that it has been well received. Although it seems advantageous and risky to open a restaurant in a foreign country the stars aligned for me and I was supported my ever-growing network of people.

What is the lifestyle you share at LOCALE?

The concept of Locale is focused on the farms. Each week we order an osusume box from the farmers. When the box arrives I decide the menu. This menu can change from day to day depending on the dynamic of vegetables that are available at the time. The menu is not vegetarian but each dish is focuses heavily on these very seasonal vegetables. 

Can you share a recipe or a favourite dish with us?

One dish that is very unique to Locale is dish of Avocado, Lentils, and Shibazuke Yogurt. I was unaware that Japanese tsukemono was only really to be eating alongside rice. I decided to chop it up and mix it with yogurt and a few other ingredients to make a kind of sauce. It seems like a very unusual combination but it has been such a popular dish that it has become a kind of signature dish of the restaurant. 

What differentiates you from other places?

One thing I have learned from this experience is the power of being authentic. We have created a really special restaurant filled with warmth and great energy.  Over time we have gained many repeat guests and often they say as the enter Locale with a sigh of excitement "I am home!"  For me there could be no better compliment than that. 

What do you like doing when you are not behind the stove?

I spend most of my week in the restaurant but on my days off I enjoy exploring new parts of Japan, being out in the sunshine, and also doing pottery.