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Art of the Meal

Art of the Meal: zensei ゼンセー Discusses the Joys and Pleasures of Food and Eating

Putting aside his awesome new album, ‘destination heartbreak,’ zensei ゼンセー joins us for an Art of the Meal interview highlighting his love for sushi, eating ox tongue, and hometown Vancouver restaurants.



zensei ゼンセー

It’s never easy to have your heart broken, but if it happens, why not turn it into something positive, as zensei ゼンセー has done with his latest EP? Released in February via Monstercat, destination heartbreak pt. 2 is a three-song instrumental conception of the producer and multi-instrumentalist’s previous experiences with heartbreak, how it affected him, and how he put himself back together after it. It’s the follow-up to destination heartbreak pt. 1, released last November, and it is the prelude to the destination heartbreak full-length LP, which just dropped on April 11th! destination heartbreak pt. 2 takes on a sad tone but an expressive and revealing one, describing a moment in his life that from which he has taken great lessons.

The destination heartbreak full-length is one of zensei ゼンセー’s (ZEN-say) most ambitious projects yet, with the recording process consisting of him engaging again with old files, photos, and samples of his to draw on and use as inspiration. It was a real trip down memory lane, with each memory feeling authentic and conjuring up a set of emotions that took him back to the exact moments when he experienced these memories.

We put emotions and memories aside for today to discuss zensei ゼンセー’s favourite and least favourite foods, top hometown restaurants in Vancouver, and much more for our latest Art of the Meal.

What’s your favourite type of food (i.e. Korean, Italian, comfort, fine dining, etc.?)

zensei: “Sushi! I’ve once ate sushi 30 days straight. Ten out of ten would do again.”

What’s your favourite dish?

“Hamachi maki with a touch of soy sauce.”

Growing up, what were your experiences with food and eating? Did you cook a lot as a kid, or mostly watch? Are there specific memories of eating growing up that stand out to you (that you feel comfortable sharing)?

“I remember at a young age; my aunt taught me how to make the best rice possible. Washing all the starch off by squeezing it in water, discarding the starchy water and do it over and over till the water ran clear. We ate rice for every meal growing up, so this was really important to us! To this day, I still cook rice the same way.”

What is the most important tool in your kitchen?

“The microwave! Can’t live without it.”

What dietary restrictions do you have (that you feel comfortable sharing)?

“I’m deathly allergic to raw edamame. So I have no idea what that tastes like. I always wondered!”

What’s the hardest dish you’ve ever attempted to make? Did you pull it off?

“The kichi kichi omurice. I practiced how to make that egg every single day, took about two months to perfect.”

What’s the most expensive dish or meal you’ve ever had?

“Had to be omakase at our favourite restaurant. We spent around 300 dollars each. It was a 14-piece meal, and every bite was heaven. I didn’t even know what half of the dishes were, but my jaw dropped on every one. Most expensive piece was probably the Japanese a5 wagyu plate.”

If you only had ten bucks for a meal, how would you spend it for the best possible meal available to you right now?

“Rice made with konbu, sugar, mirin, rice wine seaweed, sesame, and a fat piece of Unagi on top.”

What was the best dining experience you’ve ever enjoyed?

“Omakase at Sushi Bar Maumi!”

What would you like your last meal to be?

“I would want to bring it back to my childhood. My sister and I would always cook instant noodles when our parents were not around, and it felt like a forbidden treat. So probably a pack of our favourite instant noodles (indomi by mi goreng).”

What’s your guilty pleasure? We’re talking the trashiest or most unhealthy pick here.

“Plain white bread with cheese and mayonnaise. Absolutely delicious!”

Who’s your favourite chef?

“I have worked in three different sushi restaurants, and every chef has talked about the legend Masa Takayama. I have yet to try any of his food, but I watch all his videos!”

What’s your favourite cooking show?

“Not really a cooking show, but more of a vlogger that cooks a lot. Doobydobap! She makes everything look so simple yet delicious!”

zensei ゼンセー ‘destination:heartbreak pt. 2’ EP album artwork

zensei ゼンセー ‘destination:heartbreak pt. 2’ EP album artwork

What restaurant is everyone sleeping on right now?

Sushi By Yuji in Vancouver! I feel like not a lot of people know about it. One of my favourites.”

What’s your go-to dish that never fails?

“My carbonara, super easy to make. Crowd pleaser!”

What’s your go-to dish that never ceases to amaze?

“Omurice. I have yet to have a negative reaction, so I think it’s pretty good!”

What’s your least favourite dish that everyone else seems to love?

“Salad rolls with Mint in it. Yuckkkkkk!”

What’s your most controversial opinion on food?

“Wasabi, mint, and basil make me gag!”

What is lacking in the world of food?

“Food that are both delicious AND healthy. Feel like it’s so limited to chicken/turkey and veggies. We need something that is 10/10 in taste and 10/10 in health!”

There’s one type of food you can wipe from existence: what’s your pick?

“Mint or basil. I hate it! I HATE IT.”

Do you follow a particular diet?

“I try to stay away from red meat as much as I can since I have a liver disease. But I have it during celebrations (i.e. birthdays, New Years, milestones, weddings, etc.).”

How does the food you eat on the road compare to what you eat when in the studio or not working?

“When I’m on the road, I want to try what is best locally. Always open to try new restaurants while I’m there! At home, I’m pretty boring. Most days I just eat rice with some sort of meat dish.”

Do you prepare a lot of your own food?

“Yes, I meal prep most of the time! I cook Monday for the weekdays. And prepare nicer meals for the weekend.”

What are some of your favourite restaurants in your hometown?

Kishimoto Sushi, Taishoken Ramen, Merci Beaucoup, Sushi Bar Maumi, Lupo, Robba da Matti, Pho Duy, HK BBQ Master, just to name a few!”

Do you have a favourite “food city” when on tour?

“Los Angeles! I love Burgers Never Say Die.”

What are some of the food items on your rider?

“Sucker for a good meat and cheese platter.”

If a fan were generous and to give you a food or drink-related gift, what should they get you?

“Wagyu beef, yum!”

Were any of your songs ever conceived at a bar or restaurant?

“No, but never say never! Maybe I’ll name one after a restaurant!”

When was the last time you barbequed?

“Before COVID, so probably four years ago!”

What is your go-to meal when headed to a barbecue?

“I love wings!”

Did you have to overcome being a picky eater, and if so, when/how was it?

“Yes, how did you know? I used to only eat rice and fatty red meat. And never drank water, only soda. It was hard at first. I was diagnosed with a liver disease at a young age and had to change my whole life around that. But now I enjoy almost all foods.”

What is the “strangest” food you’ve ever tried, and how are you with “less standard” foods?

“I’ve had ox tongue; it was really delicious. I’ll try anything once! But I wouldn’t have it again if I didn’t like it.”

Which toppings go on your ideal pizza?

“Cheese and pepperoni. My favourite.”

Do you have a favourite chef?

Masa Takayama.”

What sort of cooking setup do you have at home?

“Sous-vide machine, air fryer, toaster oven pressure cooker, and everything else standard!”

Have you ever owned a George Foreman Grill? Where is it now?

“No, never! But not going to lie, I really want one.”

What is your favourite fast-food chain restaurant?

McDonald’s, I’m a sucker for their McDouble (secret is to add big mac sauce).”

How do you usually get your groceries? In-store? Online delivery? From where?

T&T, Costco, my local butcher and Fujiya…”

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