World Chefs: Madonna's macrobiotic cook home in Japan

Tue Dec 14, 2010 3:16am EST
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By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - After working for seven years as Madonna's macrobiotic cook, Mayumi Nishimura feels she's back in Japan to help change the way her native country eats.

Although Japan's traditional diet is extremely healthy, an increasingly Westernized diet and the incursion of overseas fast food chains have made weight issues, and diseases such as diabetes, much more common than before.

Nishimura, who spent about 25 years in the United States aside from her time -- mainly in London -- with Madonna, has written a book, "Mayumi's Kitchen," with menus that blend her Japanese background, her macrobiotic training in the United States, and her experience working for Madonna.

When Madonna's current cook goes on vacation, Nishimura goes back to work for the pop star, who wrote an introduction to Nishimura's book.

Q: How did your Japanese background help you develop as a macrobiotic cook?

A: "I was born on a small island, fish was abundant and it was free, and vegetables were free. When I look back now, if I just changed white rice to brown rice and ate other whole grains, and instead of eating so much fish to eat just occasional fish and more vegetables, I was already pretty close to macrobiotic. Plus I had already known sea vegetables, all those basic ingredients. That helped a lot.

"I learned a lot from the different foods in the United States. Whole oats, cooking whole oats, was a big challenge for me. Also all sorts of beans I hadn't seen before, such as chickpeas, green lentils. Finding all those whole grains was new, learning how to use them, to combine them with Japanese kinds of seasonings. That's not saying that everything tasted good. I tried a lot and I failed a lot. But because of that I became a better cook."

Q: What's your macrobiotic philosophy?   Continued...