Daiske Kishigami, 41 years old, hometown - Kobe, Japan, owner of Café Momo
About himself and how it all began
My cooking career started in a bakery in Japan. Prior to this, I spent ten years working in companies related to electronics, assistant in marketing. Then I changed my profession because I wanted to do something with my own hands. Then I thought I was interested in making bread and pastries. And I went to pastry school. After high school, I started working at a bakery in Yokohama, near Tokyo. And almost two years I spent there before I got a chance to go to work in Dubai. There was one local Arab who loved Japanese bread, and he wanted to open a bakery in the UAE. There I had the opportunity to work not only as a baker but also as a manager.
About moving to Kazakhstan
A little later I met my future wife, a Kazakh woman, and moved to Kazakhstan. We have been married for three years, and we have a little daughter.
The first time when I first came to Kazakhstan and saw the local winter, I was shocked. I'm still not used to winter.
I didn't have any other big problems during the adaptation. We are not much different from the Kazakhs, we have a similar Asian culture and mentality. I understand that there is no need to worry about the impression of Japan because due to Toyota and Sony everyone knows everything about us.
I like your country and the fact that people here are friendly. The main difference between Japanese and Kazakhs is that your people are more straightforward. And I noticed that you are not smiling when meeting, mainly beginning to smile then, when talking.
I wanted to open a bakery and explored the market in Astana and Almaty. Few people knew Japanese chefs here, so I found it interesting to start a business in Kazakhstan. Then we realized that it would be difficult to do such a business here. I thought that it would be difficult to do a big business with our bread, and then the idea came to open a Japanese cafe where people can enjoy ordinary home-made Japanese cuisine at reasonable prices.
I'm not a professional chef, as in Japanese restaurants, so we have a simple menu of ordinary home-cooked meals that we eat at home, my mother prepares such. I didn't know how to cook everything, so my mom taught me, and I also got advice from other chefs.
We have prepared and opened a cafe in Astana in September 2015. It was in another place, on the Left Bank. We had a small room inside the hotel. But in June 2016 we closed because the hall and the kitchen were combined, and it was inconvenient for visitors and for us. Then I thought we could find a better place, a bigger room. It was hard to find a new place. Finally, in December, I found a suitable room where we reopened. We have five people in the team, including me. And, sometimes, from time to time students work in the café.
About the name and atmosphere
In Japanese, "Momo" is a peach. When my wife and I were just opening a cafe, we thought how to name it. We thought of "Momo” my niece’s name is Momona, and we took a part "Momo” from her name. We think it is an easy and memorable name.
I wanted to offer to the Kazakhstanis a place where they would feel the spirit of Japan. We have some books and games from Japan in our cafe. Some books can be viewed without even knowing Japanese. The restaurant plays Japanese music. We also held a concert where the Japanese played dombra. I want Astana residents to learn more about Japan, about our cultural side.
About Japanese cuisine
Japanese food is now popular all over the world. Why I thought about the bakery at that time, because then there were many restaurants with Japanese cuisine, which prepare ramen, udon, sushi. And I was thinking of something completely new, unpopular. And to open the bakery needed simple ingredients that can be found anywhere in the world. And I was interested to know what is Japanese bread, how it is prepared, how you can open your own store somewhere in the world. Then I decided to change my career and realize my dream is to have my own business somewhere outside of Japan.
I think that an ordinary person in Kazakhstan imagines Japanese cuisine like sushi, miso soup, sashimi. But not everyone knows what kind of food for the Japanese is usual, everyday. Most of the ingredients I buy in Astana, but not all, some we bring from Japan. And for our customers, Japanese home cooking is a new experience, a new kind of products. I think that's why many people like our place.
Here I am happy, especially when customers leave their feedback. For a short time, we have received a lot of good reviews. We plan to continue to work this way. When people like it, you enjoy it. Many of our guests are already permanent, since the opening. Some visitors learned about us from social networks by reading reviews. In our plans to open a cafe in Almaty.