About the Chefs

Chef: Chikara Sono, Executive Chef of Kyo Ya Restaurant

Chikara Sono is the Executive Chef of Kyo Ya restaurant of New York City. Chef Sono did not come to New York with the intention of becoming a chef. He came to the U.S for the first time solely for tourist purposes in 1986. He was planning to go back to Japan, but since he could not purchase his return ticket home, he decided to stay longer. Chef Sono was able to return back to his native home Sapporo, Japan and became a Toyota auto-mechanic. To increment his income, he began cooking part-time which is when he fell in love with the art of cooking. In 1988, he came back to New York with the full intentions of becoming a professional chef.  After being mentored by many chefs, he opened Kyo Ya with owner Tadao ‘Tony’ Yoshida in 2007. The restaurant specializes in kaiseki cuisine, which utilizes seasonal ingredients and emphasizes artful presentation. Since the opening of Kyo Ya in 2007, Chef Sono has earned the restaurant a Michelin star each respective year, most recently for 2014. Kyo Ya also received 3 stars from the New York Times in April, 2012.

Kyo Ya Restaurant

Kyo Ya is a hidden Japanese restaurant tucked in Manhattan’s East Village. The serene woodwork of the establishment transports you into a world of nature, accompanying the seasonal dishes that are served at Kyo Ya. The restaurant was founded in 2007 to share this unique culinary experience rooted in traditional Japanese techniques. We hope our patrons leave Kyo Ya with a better understanding of the breadth and depth of Japanese cuisine.

94 E 7th St., New York NY 10009
Tel. 212-982-4140


Chef: Hiroki Abe, Executive Chef of EN Japanese Brasserie

Hiroki Abe is the executive chef of EN Japanese Brasserie in New York’s West Village where he uses  seasonal ingredients and modern techniques in his home-style washoku cooking. Chef Abe incorporates the freshest ingredients earning a Michelin recommendation each year since 2005 along with accolades from local and national press.

EN Japanese Brasserie
435 Hudson St., (at leroy) New York NY 10014
212-647 9196



_MG_3227Chef: Takanori Akiyama, Executive Chef of Sakamai

Born into a family of sushi chefs in Miyazaki on the southernmost Japanese island of Kyushu, Chef Akiyama’s culinary path was paved for him at birth. After attending culinary school in his hometown, he started working at Serina in the renowned Roppongi district of Tokyo. Here at the acclaimed Serina, Akiyama sharpened his basic skills and developed his culinary foundation while also learning the time-honored art of kaiseki cuisine.

In 1995, Akiyama was invited to New York as executive sous chef to Chef Hitoshi Kagawa at Oikawa Restaurant. Under the mentorship of Chef Kagawa, Akiyama was introduced to the world of Modern Japanese cuisine. Subsequently in 1999, Akiyama moved to Lan Restaurant, a Japanese establishment in the East Village, in his first role as Executive Chef. The job afforded him an opportunity to cultivate and explore his own cooking style and to develop management skills. There Akiyama embraced the challenge of running a kitchen and creating inventive yet budget-conscious dishes.

Two years later, Akiyama was invited to head the kitchen at Forbidden City where he was tasked with creating a menu suitable for a pan-Asian themed posh lounge. His time here demonstrated his versatility and breadth of skill as he re-invented his style to inspire dishes geared to a very distinct audience.. In 2003, Akiyama returned to Lan as Partner/ Executive Chef, where he continued to establish and refine his signature style of cooking. Akiyama developed quite a cult following in New York’s food crowd while at Lan, and food aficionados have often described his style as Modern Japanese with a French twist.

Akiyama returned to Japan in 2010 to be with his family and help revive his father’s restaurant in Miyazaki. During his time there, he was reintroduced to the variety and quality of local Japanese ingredients. He was able to not only share the skills he developed in New York, but  was also able to touch-up on and re-master traditional Japanese cooking in his homeland, something he often yearned for during his years in New York City. Akiyama reestablished his roots in and reignited his passion for traditional Japanese cuisine. Armed with this spirit he returned to New York with an even sharper vision for his cooking.

Upon his arrival in New York, he worked as consulting chef for Dieci in the East Village, and eventually rose to lead the kitchen as Executive Chef. Chef Akiyama is extremely excited to be part of the Sakamai family, and is looking forward to creating innovative dishes that will provide a memorable Sakamai experience.

157 Ludlow St. (between Stanton St. & Rivington St.) New York, NY 10002



793860_399740500121494_1676975718_oShuichi Kotani, Soba Master Chef

Chef Shuichi Kotani  studied the art of soba with soba masters for over a decade in Tokyo before coming to New York City.  During his apprenticeship, he also spent much time perfecting the art of making tempura. He currently serves as the Director of International Development of the Japanese Culinary Academy and The Japan Food Association.

shingoShingo Gokan, Bartender

Shingo Gokan is an award-winning bartender who competed in the Bacardi Legacy Global Cocktail Competition in 2012. Competing against more than 10,000 bartenders from 26 countries, he took first place in the global competition after winning at the regional competition in New York and the national competition in the United States. Recently, he was invited to the Savoy Hotel in London as the very first guest bartender at the most historically celebrated bar in the world.

Shingo started his bartending career in 2001 in Tokyo and has continued to distinguish himself as a talented bartender ever since. His deep knowledge of bartending assisted him in receiving  the “Venenciador” Sherry Sommelier license in Spain,  which only two Japanese people have ever acquired.

Shingo’s profound interest in mixology led him to New York City in 2007. At Angel’s Share in New York, a bar renowned for its efficiency, quality, service and singular execution of mixed drinks, Shingo, as a head bartender/manager, has been at the helm of one of the most demanding bars in the world. Angel’s Share is one of the few awarded cocktail bars in the United States and has been featured in New York Magazine, Time Out New York, and GQ since his arrival. A number of Shingo’s recipes and drinks have appeared in magazines, trade publications, books, and other cocktail lists internationally. Shingo is the only mixologist in the world who is featured in three of True Original’s cocktail making videos by top bartenders of the world.


erinaMC: Erina Yoshida, Associate at Yoshida Development

Erina coordinates operations for a number of restaurants and markets in Manhattan including Sunrise Mart, Panya, and Kyo Ya.  Erina is involved in various aspects of operations ranging from marketing, finance, and oversight of food & beverage program.  Born to a family in the restaurant business, she has been passionate about the food and beverage industry since an early age.  She hopes to continue the family tradition through the successful operation of these establishments.

Ayano Nakamura, Manager of Kyo Ya Restaurant

Ayano Nakamura is the manager of Kyo Ya restaurant since 2009. She has worked in several Japanese restaurants in not only New York but also in her native Osaka and Tokyo, Japan. Ms. Nakamura is the master when it comes to explaining intricate dishes, in particular, kaiseki cuisine. With her expertise in complex food, she is sure to leave you with new knowledge of Japanese cuisine.


Taeko Takigami, President of Comculture, LLC

Ms. Takigami develops and manages innovative multicultural events and campaigns specializing in the food industry. Bi-lingual in Japanese and English, Ms. Takigami has more than 25 years of experience and a proven track record in consensus building, project strategy, negotiation, and promoting cultural and business ties between American and Japanese professionals in government, publishing, hospitality, and the culinary arts. Ms. Takigami consults with the food related programs at the Japan Society in New York City and also serves as a food consultant to some of the major Japanese trading companies.