Chef Bio: Roy Yamaguchi

Roy Yamaguchi

Born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi often visited his grandparents on the island of Maui in Hawaii, where he cultivated a love of Hawaiian food. He translated that love into a celebrated culinary career, attending the Culinary Institute of America and graduating when he was only 19 years old.

Known for his “Hawaiian Fusion® Cuisine,” Yamaguchi kicked off his culinary career in Los Angeles as La Serene’s executive chef, later leaving for Santa’s Monica’s famous Michael’s restaurant.

His stints as executive chef eventually led Yamaguchi to open his first restaurant in Los Angeles, 385 North. It was during this period that Bon Appetit crowned Yamaguchi’s cuisine as “California-French-Japanese-eclectic.”

Four years after opening 385 North in 1984, Yamaguchi returned to Hawaii where he opened Roy’swhich now boasts 37 locations in Hawaii, the United States, Guam, and Japan. Roy’s features Yamaguchi’s “Hawaiian Fusion® Cuisine,” primarily seafood dishes that combine fresh Hawaiian ingredients, Asian spices, and European sauces. Each Roy’s location features a local menu with the restaurant’s classic offerings in addition to dishes created by each individual location’s chef, all of whom have been mentored by Yamaguchi.

In addition to the success of his restaurants, Yamaguchi has enjoyed crucial acclaim, winning the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Pacific Northwest Chef in 1993, earning the distinction of being the first Hawaiian chef to win the award.

Diners who can’t get to one of Yamaguchi’s restaurants can still enjoy his passion for food. Yamaguchi offers viewers a taste of Hawaii through his long-running PBS television seriesHawaii Cooks with Roy Yamaguchi, which is regularly seen by millions of viewers in 50 states and in 60 countries.  

The critically acclaimed chef also returned to his native Japan, an experience he shared with viewers of My Country, My Kitchen, airing on the Food Network. Yamaguchi has also made several appearances with the Top Chef franchise: He was eliminated in the second round of Top Chef Masters in 2009 and served as a guest judge on Top Chef two years earlier. Yamaguchi also starred in Iron Chef: Holiday Showdown and Iron Chef: Showdown in Las Vegas. 

Yamaguchi has also authored several cookbooks:  Hawaii Cooks, Roy’s Fish and Seafood,and Roy’s Feasts from Hawaii, and has designed his own line of cookware, Roy Yamaguchi Cookware.

He has also earned some high praise from such notable sources as The New York Times, which called him the “the Wolfgang Puck of the Pacific.”

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