Saké Brand Culinary Chef Shimpei Hatanaka

Meet the Chef: Saké Brand Culinary Chef Shimpei Hatanaka

Embrace true contemporary Japanese cuisine with Chef Shimpei Hatanak at Saké Restaurant & Bar. Born in Tokyo, Chef Hatanaka’s passion for food was ignited during his childhood, through coastal camping trips where his family would cook what they fished. Reflecting on his upbringing, he shares, “My culinary background started with my father, a sushi chef. From seaside foraging to mastering the art of sushi, I grew up appreciating many aspects of cooking.

Chef Hatanaka’s career commenced at the age of 14, when he took on the role of a kitchen hand at a local Japanese restaurant in Neutral Bay. Starting with the humble task of washing dishes, he quickly transitioned to mastering the basics of cooking, driven by a desire to learn and grow.

As he honed his skills in various kitchens, Chef Hatanaka found himself drawn to sushi. Under the guidance of his father and at esteemed establishments such as Sushi E, he delved deeper into the nuances of Japanese cuisine, refining his techniques and palate. He shares, “I wanted to learn more about the art of sushi, and felt lucky to be able to work alongside my father at Shiki, a restaurant in The Rocks that was renowned for being one of the best Japanese eateries at the time.”

His culinary journey took an international turn when he seized the opportunity to work at Nobu in the Bahamas, a pivotal experience that broadened his culinary horizons and solidified his passion for Japanese technique. After working at Nobu for 2 years, he was then called back to Australia to help open numerous restaurants with Merivale. In 2009, Chef Hatanaka was called in for a Sushi Chef position for the opening of Saké The Rocks.

From Sushi Chef to Head Chef and eventually Executive Chef, Chef Hatanaka’s dedication and expertise were evident in every dish he crafted. After several years in the Saké kitchen, his thirst for knowledge deepened. “I found myself wanting a more thorough education of traditional Japanese cuisine, and experience working in Japan,” he explains. “Japanese cuisine is all about seasonality, history, and culture, so there is no better place than Kyoto, the most historical city in Japan. There, I worked at Mizuki at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where I learned kaiseki and edomae-style omakase sushi.” After working in Japan for a year, he brought that knowledge back to Australia as the Executive Chef of Saké Hamer Hall, Melbourne, before resuming his current position as Brand Culinary Chef in Sydney.

Inspired by his travels and culinary explorations, Chef Hatanaka’s cooking philosophy is deeply rooted in seasonality, sustainability, and innovation. His biggest inspirations stem from his experiences dining out and exploring markets, where he discovers new ingredients and flavour combinations that inform his creative process. “I love to explore when travelling: both geographically and through the palate. I love seeing ingredients I have never eaten or used before,” he explains.

At Saké, Chef Hatanaka curates a menu that seamlessly blends traditional Japanese techniques with contemporary twists, ensuring a dining experience that is consistently extraordinary. He shares, “Our menu harmonises tradition with creativity, catering to diverse tastes. We focus on flavour and locality, so that every dish can tell a story.”

Join Chef Hatanaka at Saké, where diners are treated to dishes that are crafted with both precision and passion.