Roy Yamaguchi

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Roy Yamaguchi
Hawaii Cooks Cover.jpg
Hawaii Cooks Cookbook cover
Born 1956 (1956)
Tokyo, Japan
Education Culinary Institute of America
Website [1]
Culinary career
Cooking style Hawaii inspired cuisine

Roy Yamaguchi (born 1956) is a celebrity chef, restaurteur and founder of a collection of restaurants including 30 Roy’s Restaurants in the United States and Guam, the Tavern by Roy Yamaguchi and Eating House 1849. He is one of the founding members of the Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement.


Roy Yamaguchi is the chef and founder of a collection of restaurants including 30 Roy’s Restaurants in the United States and Guam, the Tavern by Roy Yamaguchi and Eating House 1849. He is revered for his exceptional culinary skills and is known as the innovator of Hawaiian inspired cuisine, an eclectic blend of California-French-Japanese cooking traditions created with fresh ingredients from the Islands. He is the first from Hawaii to have been honored with the prestigious James Beard "Best Pacific Northwest Chef" Award in 1993 and has earned numerous honors including California Chef of the Year (California Restaurant Writers Association) Gault-Millau Top 40 (Forbes FYI), Top 50 Cuisines in America (Conde Nast Traveler), Fine Dining Hall of Fame (Nation’s Restaurant News) and the John Heckathorn Dining Excellence Award (Honolulu Magazine).

Yamaguchi was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. His Hawaii roots are tied to his paternal grandfather who owned a tavern in Wailuku, Maui in the 1940s. He attributes his appreciation for food to his Hawaii-born father and his Okinawa-born mother. Upon graduating from high school, Yamaguchi enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in New York where he received his formal culinary training. After graduating in 1976, he accepted numerous positions at some of the most prestigious California restaurants at the time, L'Escoffier, L'Ermitage, Le Serene, Michael’s and Le Gourmet in the Sheraton Plaza La Reina. In 1984, Yamaguchi opened his first restaurant, 385 North, in Hollywood and in 1988, he moved to Honolulu to open the first Roy’s Restaurant. He is also credited as the mastermind behind the 1994 debut of Outback Steakhouse in Hawaii.

Yamaguchi is also known as a television personality, hosting six seasons of the PBS series, Hawaii Cooks with Roy Yamaguchi, which was broadcast on more than 300 stations in all 50 states, as well as in over 60 countries. Equally notable, he was featured on the Food Network’s My Country, My Kitchen that takes him back to his roots in Japan. Yamaguchi also competed as one of twelve of the nation’s most notable chefs on the first season of Bravo Chanel’s Top Chef Masters and also appeared as Iron Chef Asian, in the first American incarnation of Iron Chef USA.

In 2004, he launched a “Roy Yamaguchi” brand of cookware that sold on the Home Shopping Network. Partnering with Ajinomoto North America in 2011, Yamaguchi has also developed a “Roy Yamaguchi” food product line for national distribution. He has published four cookbooks: Pacific Bounty, Roy’s Feasts from Hawaii, Hawaii Cooks: Flavors from Roy’s Pacific Rim Kitchen and Roy’s Fish and Seafood.

In addition to the acclaim his restaurants have received, Yamaguchi’s personal influence and community involvement have placed him among the most influential chefs in the nation. In 1996, he gave the commencement speech to graduating class of the CIA and in 2009 was elected to their Board of Trustees. In 2011, Yamaguchi was nominated by the late U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye and earned a political appointment under the Obama Administration to the board of the Corporation for Travel Promotion, now known as Brand USA. He is one of eleven board members for Brand USA and has used his culinary and travel experience to help develop policies and strategies to promote the U.S. as a premiere travel destination. He is also part of the U.S Department of State’s American Chef Corps, a network of chefs from across the United States who have agreed to be resources and elevate the role of culinary engagement in America’s formal and public diplomacy efforts.

In addition, Yamaguchi, founded and chairs, along with Chef Alan Wong, the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, which has become Hawaii’s premiere food and wine destination event. He established the Tom and Warren Matsuda Scholarship Fund, providing scholarships to students to attend the Culinary Institute of the Pacific. Founding the Roy’s Annual Golf Classic more than 17 years ago, Yamaguchi has been instrumental in raising more than $400,000 for Imua Family Service. Yamaguchi also serves as trustee and/or member of numerous nonprofit boards, including the U.S. Japan Council, Go For Broke, Culinary Institute of the Pacific, Hawaii Culinary Education Foundation and Good to Grow.

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