Kuniko Yagi

Japanese-born Kuniko Yagi is an award-winning chef and owner of Pikunico, a Southern-inspired karaage fried chicken restaurant in Los Angeles. She was the opening chef of David Myers' Hinoki & the Bird, which was named one of Bon Appetit's Top 50 New Restaurants in 2013. Kuniko competed on Bravo's Top Chef Season 10.


Kuniko Yagi probably would not have had a career as a chef had she not left her job as a banker in Tokyo to move to Los Angeles with her new husband in 2003. Barely able to speak English and in need of work after her divorce a year later, she landed a server position at Nobu Matsuhisa's Udon. Kuniko quickly realized that the path to building a sustainable career resided in the kitchen. Determined to learn the craft, she convinced chef David Myers, a regular at Udon, to hire her at Sona. Kuniko worked her way from chef de cuisine to executive chef of Myers' popular bistro Comme Ça. In between, she staged at three-Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris and Japan. Kuniko and Myers collaborated to open his highly acclaimed Japanese-influenced concept Hinoki & the Bird in late 2012, which coincided with her appearance on Top Chef. She left Hinoki & the Bird in 2014 with the intent of starting a casual restaurant where she could cook to feed and nourish everyone. It took Kuniko another four years to secure a partnership with Kaizen Dining Group to open Pikunico, inspired by happy childhood memories of the special fried chicken her grandmother would buy her on the weekends.


Kuniko graduated from Ferris University in Yokohama, Japan with a degree in literature.

About Food & Wine

Food & Wine, a Dotdash Meredith Brand, is an award-winning online resource for anyone passionate about the culinary world. With rigorously tested recipes and the most trusted restaurant, drinks, culinary travel and home coverage, we inspire and empower people everywhere to discover, create, and devour the best in food and wine. Learn more about us and our editorial process.

Latest from Kuniko Yagi