Saito Takashi seemed destined for a culinary career. He grew up in a mountainous area of Shimane Prefecture in Japan, and spent his childhood catching Ayu (sweetfish) and Unagi (eel) as a sport. His average day included drinking mountain stream water, growing vegetables, washing them in the stream water and cooking them, and was encouraged by his elders to use all senses in doing so.
However, Saito had ambitions of experiencing more than his country life offered, and moved to Hiroshima Prefecture to follow his passion – mastering the art of cooking. There he learned a variety of culinary techniques from Okonomiyaki to Sushi. After 10 years in Hiroshima, he moved to San Francisco as sushi chef at the Sheraton’s Kyoya Restaurant. He joined Ame Restaurant at the St. Regis Hotel seven years later to work under the masterful guidance of chef-owner Hiro Sone. Saito had longed to work with Hiro Sone and was inspired by his fusion of Japanese and American cuisine.
Practicing the wisdom of ancient Japanese traditions in his cooking, Chef Saito’s dishes are artfully created taking all senses into consideration. The food at Yuzuki is the food of his ancestors, and the result is a meal rich in significance, sophistication and attention-to-detail. Chef Saito infuses his cooking with passion and worldly experience, introducing authentic Japanese cuisine to the palates of San Franciscans.
Chef Saito resides in San Francisco with his wife and two children.
A native of Osaka, Yuko Hayashi, has always been fascinated with delicious food and the deep satisfaction and joy one experiences when dining on great food, especially in the company of good friends. Since relocating to San Francisco, Yuko has focused on seeking out exceptional cuisine in the city, dining out four times a week. Over the years she discovered many excellent restaurants and talented chefs, but very few examples of truly authentic high quality Japanese cuisine, outside of the commonly found “sushi bars”.
As a child, Yuko suffered for many years due to persistent digestive disorders. Despite many visits to doctors, no one was able to identify the cause of her problems, often prescribing medication that would aggravate her condition. As an adult, Yuko discovered that she could avoid most of her symptoms by eliminating processed foods that include additives such as artificial colors, preservatives, sweeteners and pesticides from her diet. Eating fresh, unprocessed, healthy foods became a priority. Yuko began to make her own food from scratch. This became the catalyst to realizing her dream and Izakaya Yuzuki was born, ushering in a new era of healthy authentic Japanese dining to San Francisco.
The philosophy of being kind to the body extends to Yuko’s surroundings. The value of sustainability is evident at Izakaya Yuzuki where chopsticks are made from sustainable cedar, and excess food is never thrown away, but transformed into dog crackers that are donated to the SPCA. Izakaya Yuzuki is the first restaurant in the US to use a special chemical free water filter system from Japan for cooking, resulting in food with a distinctly superior flavor.
“In Japanese culture we have a term “mottainai” that expresses deep regret when the intrinsic value of something is not utilized properly. You cannot truly appreciate something when there is waste involved. “I LOVE good food. I wanted to communicate my deep appreciation by using the most fresh, sustainable ingredients to prepare exquisite and delicious dishes, while also utilizing everything to the fullest so as to avoid wastefulness. I hope I can also inspire others to find new and creative ways to express their appreciation for the food that we eat.”