Kei-Ichi Kurobe, 30
Executive sous chef, Hinoki & the Bird
Born and raised in New York, while his father -- a native of Japan -- worked at the United Nations, he was introduced to cooking in his family’s kitchen, and got his start in the professional world at Le Pollen, a French restaurant in the decidedly un-French city of Tokyo. Next up was the Michelin-starred Campton Place in San Francisco in 2004, where he worked under his idol and mentor, chef Daniel Humm.
After a stint at the St. Regis Hotel’s sashimi bar Ame, he worked at Michelin-starred Restaurant Sant Pau, which punctuates Spanish Catalan-style cuisine with local Japanese ingredients. Now, he continues his eclectic approach to food as executive sous chef at the acclaimed Hinoki & the Bird in Los Angeles.
Does the average diner care more about what they are eating than a diner from 10-15 years ago?
"Food -- especially in the US -- is so farm-driven now; where you get your produce from, where you get your fish or meat from, people want to know. When I was growing up, you would rarely see that in a restaurant. It just wasn’t a big deal. I think people are a lot more involved in their food. Even since I started in the game. It’s an aspect that has changed the game a lot. At that end, it also gives people a higher expectation of what they’ll get at any given restaurant. It’s a harder market for chefs. But overall, it inspires higher quality, and creativity. It’s is a lot harder to please your crowd. It’s a lot harder to get your guest’s attention, to get them involved. But overall, that’s what makes chefs better."