Nobu Matsuhisa and Robert De Niro have been partners since 1994, when the Japanese chef and the American actor opened the first Nobu, the iconic New York restaurant that made a global craze out of signature dishes like black cod in miso and sashimi with jalapeño. Since then, they have opened more than 37 Nobu restaurants on six continents. In 2013, the partnership launched its first Nobu Hotel in Las Vegas and now runs five, including its first European property, Nobu Hotel Shoreditch, which opened in London’s East End in 2017. For our latest Made by Originals profile, we sat down with the legends themselves to talk about food, movies, and their much-anticipated foray into hospitality.
How do you connect your creative backgrounds with your work now as hoteliers?
Robert De Niro: There’s a clear parallel between the two. There are people with different, specified tasks—interior designers, architects, set designers, the hair and makeup team, the director—and you all work together to orchestrate the final product. And then the director shouts “cut!” and announces they’ve changed their mind completely!
Nobu Matsuhisa: Well, being a chef is about taking your ingredients, applying a set of techniques, and using your vision and judgement to make a dish. In the Nobu restaurants, people spend a few hours eating and drinking, but in a hotel the whole experience can last months. And there are so many service points, from check-in to housekeeping, to room service, to how well the guest has slept that night—and there’s the whole dining experience on top of that.
What drives you to persevere in the face of adversity?
NM: Well, when my restaurant burned down in Alaska, I was devastated. I’d had so many setbacks along the way and had finally opened a place of my own, and then I lost everything in a matter of minutes. If it wasn’t for my wife and kids I would have ended my life. I know now there will always be challenges, but I’ve learned to be patient and to keep moving forward one step at a time, even if it’s just a millimeter.
Who inspires you?
RD: The actors Marlon Brando, James Dean, and Montgomery Clift. Someone who also impresses me is the chef Jeremiah Tower. In fact, Anthony Bourdain made a documentary about him in 2016 that was screened at the Tribeca Film Festival. Essentially, I’m impressed by anybody who does something really well that I know I can’t do.
NM: My family and my staff. They inspire me to stay motivated and work hard for them. Also, my customers. It makes me happy to see them eating my food and leaving with a smile on their face.
Click here to read more of our interview with Chef Nobu and Robert De Niro and to take advantage of our Community Welcome Rate, offering half-price bookings at Nobu Hotel Shoreditch for a limited time.