ChefsFeed Experiences Deep Dive: Yakitori & Chicken Butchery with The Japanese Pantry

Chef Greg Dunmore on how to achieve the perfect yakitori.

September 19, 2019 ‚óŹ 2 min read

By Richie Nakano

Every chef has their favorite pantry items. Brands of oil that they swear by, spice companies that they covet. And often they will evangelize for their favorite products—passing around ingredients, often proclaiming what they think is best. Rarely though do the distributors have a chef to curate their offerings—and that's what makes Chef Greg Dunmore and The Japanese Pantry different. Dunmore has helmed Michelin starred kitchens, and owned and operated Nojo, a beloved Izakaya in San Francisco, before launching The Japanese Pantry. (Basically, if you want the best soy sauces, sesame oils, and konbu, Greg is your guy.) We spoke to him about his upcoming yakitori class where he’s teaching butchery, skewering, and fire management, all followed by a sit-down dinner. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: The class has sold out! Check back on ChefsFeed Experiences for Dunmore's next class.

When it comes to yakitori do you feel like there's a specific focal point you have to master to make a great skewer?

It's important that the butchery is all done the same size, and you want nice small skewers that will grill up real fast. I've been trained to skewer a certain way so that when you’re chewing it your teeth are going against the grain of the chicken, but no one really notices that. You’ve gotta be a fine dining restaurant to be doing that. Japanese flavors are so nuanced and so are the techniques and the textures. 

How does the quality of the chicken in the States compare to the quality in Japan?

The chicken in Japan is better. I like to eat chicken in Japan raw and you can't really do that with the chicken we have here. Maybe a couple of places have chicken of that quality but they’re so priced out of the market that it's hard to do.

We saw that you’re teaching rice balls and a salad too, is the goal of the class to show how to make a complete meal?

Yeah, we meet, then we cook, then the last hour is a dinner. We try to make it a balanced meal so you don’t have like, people sitting there with chicken fat dripping off their noses.

Some people think you need a special grill or the binchotan to make great yakitori. Do you think it's important to have a special grill and charcoal?

This is what I’ve learned in Japan: yakitori shops are either really proud of their binchotan or their tare. It’s never really both. You don’t have to use binchotan, and I show people how to build their fire on a Weber grill using briquettes.

Your skin skewer is so different than the way everyone else does it…how did you make that?

I just cut little strips and then you accordion them on the skewer then square up the skewer when you’re done. If I get skin, sometimes it too chewy. I like it crispy with just a little bit of chew.

Are there plans to do more classes?

I do a class a month, last month was homestyle Japanese, then before that it was sesame. And we do a series of Japanese Pantry classes, one for dashi, one is soy sauce, one is vinegar, then the sesame. This is the first yakitori class. 

What’s your favorite skewer? 

Oh geez, that’s a hard one. It depends on my mood. I mean I like the cartilage, I like the fatty bonjiri (chicken tail) but I also like a negima (chicken thigh with negi).