Why Because he's bold enough to bring the concept of izakaya, a wine-friendly, tapas-style Japanese tradition, to America.
Born Tokyo, 1959.
Experience Hapa, Scottsdale, AZ; Yamakasa, Phoenix.
How he got into the food business Twenty-three years ago, when he moved to the United States from Japan, the first job he found was at a Benihana in Scottsdale.
Career detour "In between restaurant jobs, I used to work with the ski patrol, doing emergency medical search and rescue."
Favorite childhood dish Miso-marinated pork. "I loved the richness of the pork and the sweet-salty miso. One of my favorite dishes at Sea Saw is based on that dish: miso-marinated foie gras served sushi-style on top of nori-wrapped rice."
Most exotic item on his menu Small shrimp marinated with ginger and garlic, then deep-fried and served with green-papaya salad and lemongrass-curry dressing.
Pet peeve "When people don't understand my menu: They open it, close it, then go to a sushi bar."
Favorite cheap eat Vietnamese noodle soups at Da Vang in Phoenix. "That's soul food to me. I love the fresh herbs and the fish sauce."
Favorite kitchen tool A Japanese cutting board made out of polyester and rubber. "It makes it faster and easier to chop food, and it keeps the knife sharper."
Fantasy splurge "I want to eat at Yusan in Tokyo. I'd like to be there in the fall for the kaiseki menus (multicourse meals composed of small dishes). A lot of different mushrooms will be in season, and some fish have a more intense flavor in the fall."
Won Best New Chef at: Sea Saw, Scottsdale, AZ
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.