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Who: Mayumi Nishimura, Private Cook of Madonna
Mayumi Nishimura seems to be ageless. It’s hard to believe that the open-minded Japanese is already in her sixties. Also the fact that Mayumi has been the chief cook for pop star Madonna for eight years – sure a strenuous job – doesn’t change the fresh appearance of the specialist of Macrobiotic cuisine. I meet Mayumi in the Japanese restaurant Ula, in Berlin Prenzlauer Berg. Here the now successful cookbook author Mayumi prepares the favorite recipes of the queen of pop and her family for the next two weeks. And she explains incidentally, why macrobiotic diet can change our lives.
MyStylery: What is the difference between vegan and macrobiotic kitchen?
Mayumi Nishimura: In the macrobiotic kitchen you choose the food that you want. We never say you have to eat vegan only. If you need for example eggs or fish, you have it. We eat more grains and there is no sugar at all, also no honey. We use maple syrup instead. In the macrobiotic kitchen we are focused on local, seasonal and balanced food, it’s like yin and yang. We say it’s whole food.
MS: What was your inspiration to cook vegan?
MN: I once read the book “Zen Macrobiotic” and it convinced me. I wanted to study more and learn more about the philosophy. So I left Japan and went to Boston, where I studied with Michio Kushi. This happened in the 80s with the first Aids victims. One guy I met during these days decided to live only the Macrobiotic way and he had 30 more years. But of course Macrobiotic is not only for sick people.
MS: How did you get in contact with Madonna?
MN: A friend of mine recommended me and Madonna asked me to come for a weekend to try it. (laughs) Rocco was 9 months old and Lourdes turned 5 years and I first started cooking for the kids. Then Madonna started her tour and after her film shooting I became part of the team, also when Madonna decided to move to London. That was quite a decision for me, because I have lived in the States for 17 years and I was a single mom of a 17 year old daughter. But my daughter convinced me to take this chance.
MS: I’m curious. Tell me a little about the eating habits of the Ritchie-Ciccone family.
MN: In the beginning Madonna never ate together with the kid, because they were too small and she always ate late. Guy Ritchie was the one who wanted to have the macrobiotic food in first place. But during his film production he deserved meat. Madonna and the kids sometimes have some, too. By the way, the very first time I cooked meat was in England. I wasn’t trained in western style kitchen. I had to ask Guy Ritchie to teach me how to do it. (laughs)
MS: This must be a real experience, I can imagine.
MN: Yes, definitely! It takes much more time to prepare vegetables. And it took me three months to get used to the smell of cooked chicken. I even tried Lamb chops these days.
MS: Did you like it?
MN: Not really. I thought it was strange.
MS: My kids loved everything but no healthy food. They were completely addicted to unhealthy dishes such as pizza and pasta. How about Rocco and Lourdes then?
MN: That time they liked it and I could convince them. Madonna pays great attention to her figure and never has fast food. When the kids wanted a burger, I tried to find something which is healthy and looks like a burger, but it was whole wheat. I just choose the best food quality. Let me tell you, bread is really much empty calories.
MS: Are you still working with Madonna?
MN: Yes, when her kitchen chief is on vacation and I still accompany her when she is on tour.
MS: Is it hard to satisfy Madonna and her expectations?
MN: Yes and no. I was free to decide. That’s why I stayed with her for eight years. I wished she would have asked me what she wants to eat every day. Sometimes her assistant gave me a hint, that I should try something new.
MS: Is the served dinner here in the restaurant Ula a typical Madonna menu?
MN: Madonna eats much simpler. She has a soup as a starter and as a main vegetables. That’s all. Her favourite dish is the inside-out avocado roll and she loves Quinoa.
MS: What doesn’t she like at all?
MN: Like most people she avoids tropical fruits. She is more focused on seasonal and local fruits.
MS: What is your ultimate tip for staying healthy?
MN: You have to be aware what you consume and in which combination. If you eat the wrong food your body has to work on it for days. That costs you a lot of energy. After ten days of macrobiotic food you can feel the difference. After three to four months your whole blood has changed, after seven years cells and hair has changed. Macrobiotic is a tool to find what you need in your life.
MS: Looking back to the past years with Madonna, how did the job with her and her family influenced your life?
MN: Madonna gave me the opportunity to look on food from the other side. I touched Mozarella for the first time at the age of 45 years. Maybe it feels the same, when people try tofu for the first time. Today I use more herbs like Basil in my cooking. Madonna’s life is four or five times faster than the most other lifes. But it’s admiring. I still have contact to the kids. I recently saw Rocco and his friends in London where I live. It’s like being a part of the family. I wish Madonna all the best. BvH
Mayumi Nishimura nowadays works for the company Clearspring in London, which imports high quality food from Europe and Japan. Mayumi is the author of several cookbooks – 8 in Japanese and 1 in English. “Madonna always gives me a quote, when I am writing a new book.” She plans to give cooking classes in Berlin in May 2017.