What is wine without food? Here are the chefs featured at the 18th Annual World of Pinot Noir.
Guest Chef Ken Tominaga
Owner of Hana Japanese Restaurant in Sonoma County, California, PABU in San Francisco, and PABU Boston
Friday Dinner: The Art of Japanese Cuisine and Freeman Winery Pinot Noir
Revered chef Ken Tominaga, owner of Hana Japanese Restaurant in Sonoma County, California, PABU in San Francisco,
and PABU Boston at Millennium Tower, has established himself as one of the country’s leading authorities on Japanese
cuisine. Tominaga is known for his ever evolving approach to Japanese cooking – one that relies on its core principles of
using only the highest quality, freshest fish and best local produce, and honors its ability to layer and express flavors so
beautifully. In addition to his skill, Tominaga’s success can be attributed to his infinitely curious mind; he describes his
career as never-ending, and his appetite for learning as insatiable.
While growing up in Tokyo, Tominaga’s parents fully immersed him in the city's vibrant dining scene. Holding
apprentice positions as early as adolescence, he quickly fell in love with the culinary world. Throughout high school, he
worked his way up in restaurants, first as a dishwasher, then as a prep cook, often catching just a few hours sleep
before returning to class.
After graduation, Tominaga moved to California to join his family's business, an optics company in Santa Rosa. The local
restaurants and the influence of French, Italian, and Chinese cuisine began to steer his culinary point of view while he
also noticed a significant void in fantastic Japanese restaurants. When his family sold their business, he seized the
opportunity to return to his first love, cooking, and headed to Tokyo to attend the Akasaka Cooking School. By day, he
studied one on one, learning to cook everything from tempura to udon. By night, he frequented his favorite sushi
restaurants, studying the work of the sushi masters he'd known since he was a boy. Coaxing them to reveal recipes and
tips, Tominaga would then adapt their secrets to reflect his personal style, while still representing authentic Japanese
Tominaga opened Hana Japanese Restaurant in 1990, seeing no choice but to make it a success and hoping to change
Japanese food culture in the States. Within its first few years, Hana developed a devoted, cult following among fellow
chefs and the local restaurant industry. Media accolades soon followed, and the San Francisco Chronicle called it “one of
the best restaurants in all of Sonoma County.” Tominaga saw the opening of Hana in Rohnert Park as a continuation of
his learning process, and he works every day to refine his cuisine.
Tominaga befriended celebrated chef Michael Mina over 10 years ago when Mina visited Hana on the recommendation
of one of his chefs. Mina fell in love with Tominaga’s inventive omakase menu, and it was not long before he and his
family became regulars at Hana. The two chefs developed both a friendship and a mutual admiration for one another’s
craft, and they began plans to collaborate on a Japanese concept.
In 2014, Tominaga and Mina introduced the Bay Area to PABU, their modern izakaya and sushi bar concept. PABU has
since been named among the Top 100 Restaurants in the city by the San Francisco Chronicle, has garnered a three-star
review, and was named by Zagat as one of the hottest Japanese restaurants in the country. In November 2016,
Tominaga and Mina expanded on its wild success with PABU Boston at Millennium Tower. As their first venture in New
England, the restaurant is poised to change Boston dining and set new standards for Japanese cuisine.
Whether on the East or West coast, guests of PABU can find Tominaga’s highly creative twists on traditional Japanese
dining. With a belief that food tastes all the better in an enjoyable atmosphere, PABU’s setting is dynamic and warm,
and Tominaga is a frequent fixture, interacting with and educating guests in the dining room and behind the sushi bar.
With more than twenty years of culinary experience, spanning the continents, Chef Umit’s passion for culinary arts has taken him to many Michelin-rated kitchens around the world: The Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey, The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai, Castel on the Hudson in New York City, La Colombe Restaurant in Cape Town, South Africa, and Savoy Hotel in London. His most recent journey brings him far from his origins in Cape Town, South Africa to the golden coast of California at The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara. As Executive Chef, Kaygusuz oversees the entire culinary operation for the seventy-eight acre resort.
Fostering the belief that “life is simple, keep it simple,” Chef Umit creates his menus as a foundation to build on. “I am inspired by Mediterranean and French cuisine since they have played a strong role in my background. I love to experiment and combine this cuisine with elements of North African, Indian, and Asian cooking styles” says chef Kaygusuz.
Coupled with his Grand Diploma from Cordons Bleus, his degree in architecture combines to make Kaygusuz an artist in constructing dishes to delight any palate. Inspired by his beloved grandmother, who is also a chef, Umit plays tribute to her work ethic he learned alongside her in the kitchen, and creates every dish with love, respect, and knowledge. When Umit is not in the kitchen, you can find him traveling to the Far East and African countries. Keeping to his beliefs of simplicity, he enjoys tasting wine with different types of cheeses and cured meats.