Japanese chef Seiji Yamamoto has been announced as the inaugural winner of the American Express Icon Award ahead of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019 awards, sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna, on Tuesday 26 March 2019 at Wynn Palace in Macao.
The award is a new addition to the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019 existing portfolio and "celebrates individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the restaurant industry worthy of international recognition, whether over their career to date or in recent years, leading them to reach the status of culinary icons."
Three Michelin starred Yamamoto and kaiseki master owns and manages three restaurants in Asia. He opened his first place, Nihonryori RyuGin, an intimate 18-seat restaurant in Tokyo’s Roppongi district in 2003 before relocating to a larger venue in Midtown Hibiya, Tokyo last summer. The restaurant sits at No.41 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018 list and has ranked within the top 10 of the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list for six consecutive years.
Tenku RyuGin in Hong Kong came next, opening nearly a decade later in 2012 and debuted on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2014. This was followed in the same year by Shoun Ryugin in Taipei, Taiwan, which made its debut on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2018 at No.47.
Accepting the honour, Yamamoto said: “Japanese cuisine is a way of celebrating the richness of our culture and the beauty of our natural environment. I am very grateful that the members of the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy have recognised my efforts and honoured me with this prestigious award. I will continue to innovate and introduce Japanese culture and culinary traditions to diners from around the world.”
The award was voted for by the 300-plus members of the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019 Academy and Yamamoto will receive it during the seventh annual Asia's 50 best Restaurant Award ceremony, alongside other chef winners, including Asia's Best Female chef, the One to Watch and the Lifetime Achievement Award.