Pâtissier Yusaku Shibata

Introducing Pâtissier  Yusaku Shibata, a member of Team Japan who won the Pastry World Cup of 2023. During his career as a pâtissier in Ginza, he was introduced to Kito Yuzu and was fascinated by the wonders of yuzu harvested in the Kito area of Tokushima and its history. He now resides in Tokushima prefecture, works as a pâtissier, shop owner, and as an activist for regional revitalization through sweets. 

We had a wonderful opportunity to ask a few questions to pâtissier Shibata about Kito Yuzu and how to best incorporate kankitsu in desserts.


Q. You are an expert of yuzu. What are the good ways to incorporate it into sweets?
In the sweet and dessert industry, yuzu is getting more and more popular internationally; however, when it comes to the techniques and inspirations to make full use of the wonderful features of yuzu, it is still immature, in my opinion. That being said, we, the Japanese, have an advantage, I think. For example, at Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie 2023 (World Pastry Cup) held in January, the team Japan could express yuzu’s characteristics in more delicate ways than the teams from America and Europe. At that time, we drew out aroma from yuzu and incorporated it into our creations. If you add sugar to make yuzu jam, you ruin its beautiful aroma. The dessert we created may not have been as eye-catching as French and American desserts or did not have a sour kick, but instead, we maximized yuzu aroma and successfully brought about an impression that makes everyone recognize it as if they would say, “Oh, it must be yuzu!” This exemplifies that the delicateness of yuzu and Japanese artisanship worked together very well.


Q. How did you get to know Kito Yuzu from Tokushima?
I made “Kito Yuzu Bonbon Chocolat” for the TOP of Pattisier in the Asia 2019 competition, which granted me the Best Award in the chocolate category, for the first time. While developing the chocolate, I was looking for the best yuzu in Japan. Then I came to know Kito Yuzu and made connections with Kito Village. I have maintained a good relationship with the village ever I was originally based in Tokyo, and I used Kito Yuzu shipped from the village. However, I gradually developed feelings of wanting to look how it was cultivated and grown in the orchards there. That’s the reason why I visited Tokushima Prefecture. When I saw the wonderful yuzu orchards in Kito Village and the faces of elderly farmers, I started to think that I would like to contribute to creating a happier culture and future for them, and that would be great if my pastry making could ultimately help build the future. Then I relocated to Tokushima from Ginza, Tokyo.


Q. What makes Kito Yuzu different from other yuzu?
The production volume is not high, but yuzu growers in Kito stick to certain things that they would never give up. They can produce more, but they may have to sacrifice the taste. So, they have deliberately maintained their conventional farming styles to keep quality high. That corresponds to my philosophy, too. I do not want to sell casual sweets at lower prices, but rather I yearn to study more and express uniqueness as a Japanese pastry chef in the global context.


Q. Could you share some of your tips about how to utilize yuzu into your desserts?
There are several things you need to follow, such as how to mix and what to pair. Also, you must be aware of the way you utilize yuzu. You need to plan whether you use its juice, zest, or only peel or if you are making sauce with yuzu aroma, in advance. Yuzu has a distinct aroma, but the aroma will disappear if you heat it or even freeze it. Blending it with dairy products may also mask the aroma of dairy fat. In an ultimate sense, you can demonstrate yuzu’s aromatic effect just by squeezing juice right before serving or eating. In my opinion, not only yuzu but also citrus fruits, in general, are fragrant ingredients; therefore, you make the aroma linger to leave a strong impression. When people eat a dish made with citrus, the first thing they notice is its sour sensation. Secondly, they smell the aroma as they bite it. Thirdly, they appreciate its taste. And finally, the aroma again passes through their noses as they swallow it. So, by achieving all these courses of experiences, you can make them remember what they eat and think like, “Oh I enjoyed this citrus dish so much.” This is what I believe.