Chef Spotlight: Meet Kaori Igarashi of Nobu Waikiki

Kaori Igarashi, Sushi Chef at Nobu Waikiki

Kaori Igarashi, Sushi Chef at Nobu Waikiki

When I was given the opportunity to interview someone for a Chef Spotlight, Kaori Igarashi immediately came to mind. Not only is Kaori one of the few female sushi chefs around, but she is one of the most sought after sushi chefs at Nobu Waikiki. Here are just some of the reasons why Kaori exudes the Nobu state of mind.

Q: Did you always know that you wanted to be a chef?

A: When I was a young girl in Japan, I always wanted to be a Rock Star! I played the drums in my school marching band and always loved the creativity of music. I dreamed of coming to the United States to create a life for myself and always had big goals for myself.

Q: How did you begin your training as a sushi chef?

A: In Japan, women are not usually sushi chefs. It was always seen as a man’s job with all of the physical demands, so when I first began training I was taught only how to make the rice and prepare the vegetables.

Q: Tell us about your dream coming true of moving to the United States.

A: In 1999, I had the opportunity to build a life in the United States and I took it! I traveled to San Francisco where I continued my training in a Kaiseki-style restaurant. Kaiseki-style is family style dining, and this is where I was taught the art of sushi making. All Japanese restaurants in the United States have sushi bars, so I was able to continue learning. For 8 years I was able to learn and grow, and it gave me an incredible foundation for the next step.

Q: What brought you to Nobu Waikiki from San Francisco?

A: My husband had always wanted to go to Hawaii, and I came across information saying that Nobu was opening in Waikiki. We made a decision to pack up our lives and move! It was spontaneous and exciting, and there was a wonderful opportunity for me.

Q: Well, we are so glad you decided to take that chance! Being a chef at Nobu, do you have any favorite dishes to prepare?

Kaori is always more than happy to go out of her way to say hello to you. She will never show her emotions if she is having a bad day, and is very personable and strong. Kaori holds her own and sets an incredible example. — Casper Khamphouy, GM of Nobu Waikiki

A: I love to prepare the Whitefish Dry Miso and the Ahi poke Nobu-style. I really like sashimi-style fusion, so I enjoy preparing these dishes.

Q: We know that you are an incredible sushi chef, but what do you like to do for fun?

A: I am very active and love being outdoors. When I am not riding my bike, I am usually training for a marathon. I have completed the Honolulu Marathon 3 times and am training for a triathlon!


Kaori’s Secrets

She is so petite behind the sushi bar that a platform was created for her to stand on. Each night, she stands on this platform during the whole dinner service so she can prepare dishes and present them to her guests

Kaori is not only talented but charismatic. She has guests that fly across the world several times a year just to sit in front of her at the sushi bar.


Posted on February 26, 2013 .