Michael Pataran became incredibly passionate about saké when he first discovered the delicate, refined characteristics it possessed during his travels to Asia and Australia back in 1990. Since then he has strived to spread the love and beauty of Japan's national beverage by trying to share both his passion and knowledge with others and in doing so has written several articles on saké in various publications from Toronto to San Francisco.
Being a chef by trade he quickly realized the affinity saké had for all cuisine (not just Japanese) and has worked diligently to create flavours in his cuisine that compliment saké's delicate, clean and pure profile. Now, thirteen years later; it seems that the time has arrived for saké to finally getting its well-deserved time in the western spotlight.
With the emergence of the saké boom in the US market, it seems the rage has definitely moved north of the border. Saké sales in the US increased 30% in 2011 from the previous 2010. We are already seeing a rapid growth in saké consumption in cities like Montreal and Vancouver. Popular international trade publications such as Wine Spectator (March 2009, April 2011) and Food Arts (Dec 2011) have featured saké as the next beverage craze to sweep through North America. In the United States, top restaurants have been selling customer’s premium sakés to accompany their non-Japanese cuisines. The Joy of Sake event held this past September for the seventh time in New York City has tripled its sales in admissions from its inaugural year; showing the rapid consumer growth that saké is enjoying. Kampai Toronto (www.kampaitoronto.com) held a sold out event on May 31st at the distillery district's fermenting cellar and attracted over 400 individuals from the restaurant industry, press and trade media, offering up over 115 saké - a staggering success in its first year!
Ken Valvur of "Izumi" Ontario Spring Water Sake Comapny (www.ontariosake.com) located in the distillery district is making premium non-charcoal filtered (muroka), undiluted (genshu) and unpasteurized (nama nama - his jewel!) for the masses - the freshest saké west of Mt. Fuji to be had.
Sake export in Japan has shown an increase in the export market for the first time in many years adding growth throughout all global markets and major urban centres. In 2011, Sake exports reached 14,013 kiloliters, up about 243 kiloliters from the previous year. With the increase of the Izakaya dining scene in Toronto, which has created a sake "buzz" in the city, many more "non"-Japanese restaurants are now offering saké on their wine lists, some of which have never carried sake before. The dilemma is that as a culture we are only in the infant stage of saké consumption. The demand for saké is increasing, but with the absence of proper education and knowledge; many consumers are feeling “left in the dark” and a little intimidated and hesitant of trying anything more than the over served piping hot saké.
The goal is to build a bridge of information, familiarity and comfort between the restaurant and the consumer market. Staff training seminars and tastings, customer sales tactics, saké list composition, maintenance and sales analysis are only a few of the services that we are providing. By increasing knowledge and educating public consumer awareness, we are only then able to make the large impact in the sales and marketability of any particular product. Over the next year the newly formed Sake Institute of Ontario (SIO), will work to further coordinate the efforts of importers, restaurants and consumers alike by holding featured yearly tastings and special events for the betterment and promotion of saké. In doing so we hope to build a strong network and wealth of information and resources within the Toronto Market that brings saké into the forefront as a mainstream beverage that can hopefully have its deserved place beside that of wine.
The key here is to target a dramatic impact for the sales, growth and service of your saké program by properly educating and training your staff so that they become confidant with handling customer inquiries and properly explaining the taste/flavour profile, brewing process, pairing with food and other crucial information. We all know that proper presentation and well-spoken knowledge are keys to successful selling and with proper assistance; the sale of saké is no different. We also offer a special service that works directly on food pairing with saké and how it differs from the pairing of food with wine. The marriage of saké and food has different guidelines than that of wine, due in part that wine chemistry differs from that of saké. This provided services will complete the saké circle and allow it to become more of a philosophical approach in the way that saké can be marketed and sold.
Certified Sake Professional (CSP) - Sake Education Council
Sake Service Institute (SSI) - 2005
Sake/Japanese Food Writer - CityBites magazine
Sake Writer/Reviewer - Winealign.com