Kiyoshi Chikano is executive chef of the first and only Michelin-starred tempura restaurant in the U.S., Tempura Matsui. In our interview, I assumed Chikano-san was in his 30s, for he looks quite young and spoke of his former bosses as “oyakata” — a term that’s equivalent to master — but he revealed that he’s actually 49.
His career started in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost prefecture, where he worked at a sushi restaurant until telling his mentor he wanted to work in the city. His mentor advised him to make his way to Tokyo and introduced him to a restaurant called Zakuro, where he got his official start in a professional kitchen. He worked his way up and while he enjoyed Tokyo, it didn’t satisfy him — and from there he set his eyes on NYC.