Hailing from Yamaguchi, Japan, Chef Aiko Uchigoshi brings 14 years of impressive knowledge and experience in the art of pastry to Miku Toronto. As the restaurant’s talented Head Pastry Chef, Aiko and her team proudly make every delicious dessert offering in-house. She incorporates her mastery of Japanese flavours and French baking techniques into her breath-taking desserts and has been awarded multiple times for her skill in the sugar arts and cake craftsmanship. Chef Aiko began her career with Aburi Restaurants Canada in 2012 and was an important member of the Miku Toronto opening team when the restaurant brand expanded in 2015.
My first job was… a cook at a restaurant in Japan when I was 16 years old. My plan was to save the funds needed to move out of my parent’s house by the time I turned 18!
My proudest accomplishment is… the awards I won competing in an annual sugar [making] competition for 3 consecutive years, specifically for young pastry chefs under the age of 23. I won 3rd place twice and 2nd place once. It was a lot of hard work to prepare for the competition. I had many, many long days leading up to each competition, where after working early mornings and long shifts I would spend the evening perfecting my skills and techniques.
My boldest move to date was… moving to Canada in the summer of 2011. The Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in March 2011. The atmosphere in Japan was very heartbreaking and depressing. Three months later, I decided I wanted to move abroad. I had always wanted to move to another country and I was particularly interested in learning English. This tragic event made me think to myself “you could die at any time”. I had this feeling of not wanting to be left behind, so I made the decision of moving my life to Canada!
To me, food is… my life! Eating delicious food makes me happy. At the same time, I can get inspiration for work. Creating great dishes and cooking delicious food makes me feel good and gives me a lot of personal satisfaction.
I first knew that I wanted to become a chef… when I was a high school student. I had to make a decision to go to university or start in the workforce. Ninety percent of my school was going to university. However, I knew I wanted to do something with my hands. I had three routes in mind: hair stylist, chef, or pottery maker. I realized that being a hairdresser was not for me. I really enjoy concentrating on the craft and as a hairstylist, you are always directly serving your customer. I also realized that it might be hard to make a living with pottery. So, I thought a career as a chef would be good since I had grown up helping my mother and grandmother cook, and it was always a big and enjoyable part of my life.
If I was not a chef I would be… a psychologist or counsellor, because people are so interesting. I find human behaviour and the human mind very fascinating!
The most fulfilling thing about my job is… teaching people about desserts, especially the science behind it.
The hardest thing about my job is… definitely the work-life balance! Even though I’ve been working in the industry for a long time, it is still very demanding so it’s a struggle sometimes. Another thing is finding a moment of silence from my thoughts about food! I find myself always looking for inspiration anywhere I can.
“Pay attention to the details.”
My greatest advice from a mentor was… pay attention to the details.
My biggest setback was… when I went through management challenges at a past job. I had a negative experience working in a hotel in Japan where the management style was very strict and professional. After that, I opted to work in a small restaurant. It made me want to bring more positivity into the workplace. This experience showed me the kind of pastry chef and leader I wanted to be.
I overcame it by… developing my own style of leadership. In addition, moving to Canada helped me overcome this experience and taught me many things. People here showed me a lot of patience and understanding.
If I were to pick one thing that has helped me succeed, it would be… the people who I’ve met throughout my life. When I decided to become a chef, and when I moved to Canada, the people who I met at these critical turning points in my life gave me great advice. They gave my career some direction and helped guide me in life.
I surprise people when I tell them… I have more than an average person’s knowledge of space and freemasonry. Most people don’t expect this because I’m always thinking about and talking about food, 80% of the time!
I stay inspired by… people who push boundaries and create new things. And not just food — it could be anything! Just something new that people haven’t seen before.
The future excites me because… I can’t predict anything. Technology is advancing so fast, that I think it’s hard to know what to expect in my life, even in the near future. It’s kind of scary, but I’m excited. I’m also excited about the deconstruction of global language barriers. I think in the future, AI will help people who don’t speak the same language to communicate by translating everything quickly.
My next step is… looking more into vegan desserts. I’m not too familiar with vegan desserts, but I want to develop my skills in this area!