Celebrated Japanese chef Yoshihiro Murata has been named the recipient of the prestigious American Express Icon Award 2020.

The coveted award, voted for by the 300-plus members of the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy, honours culinary icons who have made an outstanding contribution to the restaurant industry. Fittingly, Chef Murata will be presented with the American Express Icon Award in his native Japan during the eighth annual Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards ceremony on Tuesday March 24, when the region’s most acclaimed chefs and restaurateurs will gather in Takeo, Saga Prefecture, to celebrate the 2020 edition of the list, sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna.

Considered the master of Japanese kaiseki, Yoshihiro Murata is the third-generation owner and chef of Kikunoi, the highly revered ryotei in Kyoto. Comprising 11 private rooms, the century-old restaurant offers 12 elaborate courses, each one immaculately presented and crafted to showcase locally-grown seasonal Japanese ingredients. A guardian of Japanese culinary traditions and craftsmanship, Murata reinforced his reputation as the king of kaiseki when he opened Roan Kikunoi (also in Kyoto) and Akasaka Kikunoi (Tokyo).

Across the three Kikunoi restaurants, Murata has earned a combined seven Michelin stars.

In the early ‘70s, Murata travelled to Paris to study French cooking. While mastering the techniques of French cuisine, he became aware of the many misconceptions and misunderstandings surrounding Japanese food. Returning to his homeland, Murata dedicated himself to educating diners from all over the world on Japanese culinary traditions and nurturing the next generation of Japanese chefs. In 2004, he founded the non-profit Japanese Culinary Academy to facilitate educational programmess and cross-cultural exchanges between Japanese and Western chefs. His in-depth courses in Japanese culinary traditions have been attended by world-renowned chefs including David Chang, Claude Bosi and Michael Anthony. Murata has also authored definitive guides to his national cuisine, including Kaiseki: The Exquisite Cuisine of Kyoto’s Kikunoi Restaurant

(2006), and Japanese Home Cooking with Master Chef Murata (2010).

Accepting the honour, Murata said: “I regard this prestigious award as validation of my lifelong goal to share Japanese cuisine with the rest of the world. I am grateful that the members of the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants

How the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list is compiled

The list is created from the votes of the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy, an influential group of over 300 leaders in the restaurant industry across Asia, each selected for their expert opinion of Asia’s restaurant scene. The panel in each region is made up of food writers and critics, chefs, restaurateurs and highly regarded ‘gastronomes’, with a 50/50 gender balance in the Academy. There is no pre-determined check-list of criteria, but there are strict voting rules.

50 Best works with professional services consultancy Deloitte as its official independent adjudication partner to help protect the integrity and authenticity of the voting process and the resulting list of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. For more details on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants voting process, visit:


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