"HELLO, BOB?" Hisachika Takahashi is speaking into the phone."Chico has one kilo of truffle paste he wants to trade for two signed posters. You want it?...Okeydoke." Takahashi smiles, hangs up and returns to the task of chopping onions into minuscule cubes. "Bob's crazy about truffles," he says.
Bob is the artist Robert Rauschenberg, who lives on Captiva, a small island off Florida's Gulf Coast. When he is in New York City, he stays in the five-story orphanage-turned-office where many of his pieces are stored. For the past 29 years, Takahashi has overseen this Manhattan domain (caring for the building, managing the staff, restoring and curating the artwork), and for just as long, he has prepared ingenious meals for the many scene makers who pass through.
Takahashi was born in Tokyo in 1940--a difficult time. When his father died in World War II, his mother and his older brother began working to support the family. By the age of seven, Hisachika (pronounced sash-ka) was preparing meals for them all: inexpensive-but-elegant dishes like whitebait cooked in sake, soy sauce and sugar until it caramelizes, then served with copious bowls of sticky rice, and bonito-flake broth with thick rice noodles and safflower greens. Since money was scarce, he had to learn the art of stretching ingredients. It's a skill he still uses.