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My Journey with Japanese cuisine

Updated: Apr 25, 2022

I was dreaming of becoming a restaurateur when I was seven years old. While I was a musician to come to the US, I changed my career at my 30 to pursue my childhood dream. I wanted to open European style bistro with my favorite wine list, but I realized that I should take on Japanese cuisine since I am a Japan born Japanese. I focused on that, avoiding fancy maki rolls. People called my menu Franco-Japanese and asked me for traditional Japanese cuisine such as, they said, spicy tuna roll, katsu-don, ramen etc. First of all, we don't have spicy tuna roll as Japanese sushi in Japan. Katsu don is fusion modern Japanese food, so is ramen. So I decided to hoist a flag "Washoku Renaissance", where my menu would be curated in Washoku category, simple, basic, however executed as modern food that people can enjoy now. That is how I opened a restaurant in 2018, after 44 years since my first dream, and after 25 years of culinary journey to get there. I chose kaiseki theme to stay on Washoku and served three types of kaiseki to present the history of traditional Japanese cuisine. We served nearly 5000 kaiseki in a year, and unique sake serving style was also a great educational tool to Boston. I had a great team to represent the new culture until the pandemic in which unfortunately it couldn't keep up at a prime location in Boston.

I am no longer a restaurateur, not even a chef in restaurant, at least for now. So I opened this online salon WR - Washoku Renaissance, to continue the work. Any food? I plan to start serving private catering based on WR sometime next year. Meanwhile, I occasionally join my 15 years of friendship, chef Chris Chung at Momi Nonmi to serve Modern Washoku Takeout Popup. It'll be held in the middle of November this time.

The show must go on.

-Youji Iwakura

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