Over his twenty-five year career, Takashi Yagihashi has been lauded from consumers and critics alike for his exquisite ways of melding contemporary French, Asian and American cuisine. Enhancing and updating the classic French with American and Japanese twists, the self-taught Yagihashi’s delicate balance and respect for natural flavors has become a hallmark of his cooking style.
A native of Mito, Japan, Yagihashi was exposed to many culinary adventures as a young boy, growing up in a family who dined out often. Curious about what was going on in the kitchen, Yagihashi began working in a local restaurant as a teenager, which he continued to do while pursuing his Interior Design degree from the Tokyo Design School. After graduating (1981) and while looking into options as a designer, the restaurant owner recognized the naturally gifted cook’s talents and asked Yagihashi to assist with a restaurant he was opening in the States. Intrigued by American culture and cuisine, Yagihashi accepted the opportunity and found a home in Chicago; during this time he fully realized his love of cooking and decided to pursue a culinary career. Over the next three years he worked in kitchens, eventually accepting a line cook position at the high-end French restaurant Les Plumes. At Les Plumes, he began to hit his stride, mastering the classic techniques and beginning to develop his own style. He next opted to explore nouvelle cuisine at the very popular fusion-style Yoshi’s Cafe; while there, he met Gabino Sotelino, Executive Chef and Managing Partner at the four-star Ambria. Sotelino recognized the young cook’s multi-ethnic culinary skills and in 1993 brought him on as Chef de Cuisine, breathing innovative life into Ambria; shortly thereafter, Yagihashi was named Partner in this highly acclaimed stunner. After three years, he was presented with an Executive Chef opportunity, and he left Chicago to open Tribute in suburban Detroit.
An instant classic, Tribute exceeded expectations and was on every “best of” list, including Gourmet’s list of America’s Top 50 Restaurants, Wine Spectator’s “Best of Award of Excellence” (2004), four stars from the Mobil Travel Guide (2000 – 2004), four diamonds from AAA (1998 – 2004), The New York Times naming Tribute “one of America’s top restaurants” in 2002, describing it as perhaps “the finest restaurant between New York and Chicago.” Yagihashi was named one of America’s ten “Best New Chefs” by Food & Wine (2000) and the esteemed James Beard Foundation selected him as “Best Chef: Midwest” in 2003.
After achieving all he could at Tribute, Yagihashi relocated to Las Vegas, accepting the Executive Chef position at the high-profile Okada at the Wynn hotel in 2005. This energetic restaurant showcased a menu of contemporary Japanese cuisine influenced by French and American elements; at Tribute, Yagihashi had offered modern French with an eclectic Asian twist. The subtle differences show the intelligence and creativity of Chef Yagihashi’s menus. Under Yagihashi’s lead, Okada received rave reviews, including being named “Best New Japanese Restaurant” by Bon Appetit (2005).
His style is both defined and refined. Using contrasting tastes and textures, pairing simple with complex techniques, and utilizing all elements of the particular ingredient he is showcasing are hallmarks of his touch. A classic example of a showcase Yagihashi dish is the Lobster Trio – Tea-Smoked Maine lobster with Marinated Beets, Lobster Croquettes with Wasabi-Caper Remoulade, and Lobster Gelée with Lobster Claw and Lily Bulb Mousseline. Other signature dishes include Seared Foie Gras with braised daikon and Kalamanci miso glaze; a Variation of Tartares – Blue Fin tuna, Salmon, Hamachi in a Crispy Taro Taco; and Caviar Tasting of Pedal Fish, Salmon Roe, Smoked White Fish, Trout Roe and Wasabi Tobiko.
In late 2007, Yagihashi opened Takashi in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood. His style on the plate reflects his kitchen, one that is harmonious, disciplined and focused in this warm and inviting neighborhood restaurant. Takashi garnered consumer and critical accolades, including being named “Best New Restaurant” by Chicago Magazine and one of ten “Best New Restaurants of the Year” by Esquire. He then opened Noodles by Takashi Yagihashi, a quick service restaurant that was named one of the “Five Best Noodle Shops in America” by Bon Appetit; in 2009, he published his first cookbook, Takashi’s Noodles. In both 2010 and 2011, Takashi received a coveted Michelin star.
In late 2011, Slurping Turtle opened to instantaneous success. Located downtown, Slurping Turtle offers Japanese comfort food, focusing on ramen, items from the bincho grill and sashimi. When asked what he loves most about cooking, “I love the whole process – from cutting fish to the final plating. The creativity of coming up with a dish combined with the execution of the final product, start to finish, that’s what I like the most.”