Corporate Chef Masa Kurihara has spent a lifetime perfecting his craft on both sides of the Pacific. His knowledge, precision, artistry, and passion sets a superb example for the many young chefs he trains in the KABUKI organization. Born in Tokyo, Kurihara began his career at age 18, working in a French restaurant—starting as a dishwasher—while attending the prestigious Tokyo Culinary School.
His culinary training was classically-oriented, exposing the aspiring chef to traditional European technique. Kurihara later combined this classic training with his Japanese skills to create innovative fusion dishes, many of which are featured on KABUKI’s menu. After graduation, Kurihara had the opportunity to work at Tokyo’s famous Imperial Hotel. In 1976, the young chef arrived in Washington, D.C. to work for the Japanese Ambassador to the United States, cooking for formal receptions and banquets.
Kurihara’s culinary philosophy is to keep things relatively simple, insisting, “halibut must taste like halibut, and salmon must retain the essence of salmon, unmasked by unnecessary sauces.” On the other hand, he is always open to experimentation, commenting, “I’m constantly looking for new ideas…whenever I taste something at a party or a restaurant, I’m always thinking about how I can improve upon it.”
Born in Kobe, Japan, Master Sake Sommelier Yuji Matsumoto has always been passionate about his culture and cuisine. He finally put his culinary calling in motion in 1997, combining his skills in the finance world with the culinary world, and teamed up with a partner to open the California Sushi Academy, the first vocational school specializing in the training and certification of sushi chefs.
Matsumoto decided to take his culinary career to a new level and enrolled in the Sake Service Institute of Japan. After intense studies, Yuji received his sake sommelier certificate in 2004, and chose to return to Los Angeles to advocate Japan’s sake culture. “I wanted to promote sake in the U.S. so people here can understand Japanese culture,” he stated.
Matsumoto currently serves as Sake Sommelier and Beverage Director for Kabuki Restaurants, Inc. In November 2008, Yuji returned to the Sake Service Institute of Japan to receive the distinction of Master Sake Sommelier. Yuji is the first Master Sake Sommelier recognized by the Sake Service Institute of Japan teaching in the United States. In 2011 he was named Sake Samurai (Sake Ambassador) from The Japan Sake Brewers Association Junior Council and became the official Senior Sake Judge for IWC (International Wine Challenge, London), Sake Division. Following, in 2012 Yuji was named the official Panel Chairman of IWC Sake Division.