Thirty-five years ago, Chef Tadayuki Tani came to the United States with a special talent for cooking French cuisine, which he learned in his hometown of Tokyo, Japan. He went on to own and operate two French restaurants—Le Zest in Campbell and Bell Sezone in San Francisco. Now a retired restaurateur, Tani fills his days sharing his French recipes—some infused with a Japanese twist—with culinary students at Tani Cooking Class (tani-cookingclass.com, 5259 Stevens Creek Blvd. at the Stephens Plaza).
“I was teaching French cuisine in San Francisco and Campbell while I owned the restaurants,” Tani said through a translator. “So when I retired from the restaurants at 70, I started doing only cooking classes. I worked 12 hour shifts at restaurants. But running a cooking school, I could work about four to five hours a day.”
During the Feb. 27 class, the learning kitchen bore the earthy aroma of mushrooms from a side dish being cooked in a skillet. Students got hands-on experience preparing and plating the “Salad with Gravlax de Salmon,” a salted raw salmon salad. A trick Tani used was applying some weight on the salmon first in order to make the fish tighter and flatter when he sliced it. Tani also showed his students how to cook chicken breasts at a low heat. The sauce for the chicken was a green Geneva sauce made with pine nuts, basil, onion, olive oil, garlic, Parmesan cheese and lemon juice. The dessert was “Crèmet d’Anjou,” made with yogurt, Italian meringue, cream, sugar and a strawberry and blueberry sauce.
“The yogurt was left overnight in a coffee filter to get the water out to make it more dense,” Tani said. “Inside this dessert is whipped cream mixed with the yogurt. The Italian meringue is made with a hot syrup and egg whites.”
When lunch was ready, students spread a table cloth on the dining table, set the table and got ready for a gourmet French meal they helped prepare. They sat near a wall where pinned to boards were photos of intricately plated dishes of meats, salads, side dishes and desserts that were previously prepared at Tani Cooking Class.
“I was one of the first students at this school,” said Keiko Miller, a student in the class. “I used to be a customer at Chef Tani’s French restaurant Le Zest in Campbell. His food was so good that my husband and I would go every weekend.”