You’ve heard about celebrity chefs. How about celebrity gardeners?
Sometimes the reason legendary chefs shine in the kitchen is because they have a silent partner working behind the scenes supplying them with the unique ingredients for their signature dishes. That’s the case with Pierre Gagnaire and six other Parisian chefs who share the services of gardener Asafumi Yamashita, who offers personal service and a distinctive selection of flavorful fruits and vegetables to his prestigious clients.
With seeds imported from his native Japan, Yamashita grows a variety of miniaturized vegetables for the six Michelin-starred Paris eateries and one local Japanese restaurant. His business is small by design, consisting of a half dozen greenhouses on an acre of land behind his home. Other than his wife, Yamashita has no other help ” but he does have a waiting list of anxious restaurateurs who wish to become his clients. Yamashita’s produce is so exquisite that his current customers often fight over his modest harvest, with his popular micro-tomatoes costing in excess of $40 a pound.
The business is very personal to Yamashita. He delivers all orders himself, which provides him with an opportunity to meet the chefs and advise them on the best preparation methods for his produce. He occasionally fills special requests, recently delivering an order to actress Catherine Deneuve. “Apparently her granddaughter adores my tomatoes,” Yamashita told Business Week.
Yamashita makes about $150,000 a year from his venture, but could make double that or more if he chose to accept more clients. But he prefers to keep his business as small as the vegetables he grows.
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