59: Nobuo Fukuda

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From now 'til we publish the 2012 edition of Best of Phoenix, New Times and Chow Bella present 100 Tastemakers -- Valley residents who make the cut in our culinary scene. Some you'll know; for others, it'll be a first introduction (but likely not the last). While you're here, check out our 100 Creatives on Jackalope Ranch.

Today: a chef who's come a long way from Benihana.

Tastemaker 59: Nobuo Fukuda

Born and raised in Tokyo, Nobuo Fukuda has lived and worked in Phoenix as a chef for 30 years. He has gone from working the teppanyaki tables at Benihana in the early '80s to his current position as chef/owner of Nobuo at Teeter House. While at his previous restaurant, Sea Saw, Nobuo earned the recognition as one of Food + Wine magazine's 10 Best New Chefs in the United States and was the recipient of a James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southwest. In 2010, with his partner, JNK Concepts, he opened Nobuo at Teeter House in downtown Phoenix's historic Heritage Square featuring an izakaya tapas-style menu using seasonal, local ingredients.

I arrived in Phoenix with... $400 cash, no English, and the desire to start a new life in America.

If I was sitting down to dinner for six, my five dream dining companions would be...

Zeyami -- one of the creators of noh, an ancient Japanese form of storytelling that incorporates percussion and flute, vocals and movement. I grew up with noh -- my mother is a noh performer and teacher. There are things I didn't understand about noh when I was little, like the concept of using small objects in a small space to make the audience use its imagination to understand the larger themes of life.I would love to be able to talk to Zeyami to understand how he came up with these concepts.

Neil Armstrong -- When I was little, I went to the World's Fair in Osaka, and the American exhibition had a moon rock that I found to be a fascinating symbol of the possibility of traveling a great distance. Seeing that made me think about coming to the United States.

Bruce Lee -- Every kid has a superhero they admire, like Batman or Spider-Man. For me, it was Bruce Lee.

Rocky Aoki, the founder of Benihana -- My first job in Phoenix was at Benihana, which enabled me to stay in the United States. I admire him because he was the first Japanese restaurateur to make a name for himself here in America.

Paul Radovic, my father-in-law, who I never met, as he passed away before I married my wife. He sounded like an interesting man I would have liked getting to know.

One place everyone who comes to Phoenix must eat is... Binkley's

One menu item this city could do without is... spicy tuna rolls -- usually these are made very spicy with ingredients that mask the delicate flavor of the fish. Japanese cooking is about highlighting the purity of good ingredients.

My last meal in Phoenix would be... I don't get to sit down to dinner with my family most nights, because I'm working. So, being with the family eating simply prepared local ingredients from Dave Jordan's and Bob McClendon's farms would be perfect.

The Tastemakers so far: 100: Tracy Dempsey 99: Craig DeMarco 98: Lara Mulchay 97: M.J. Coe 96: Betty Alatorre de Hong 95: Eric Schaefer 94: Hanna Gabrielsson 93: Shinji Kurita 92: Silvana Salcido Esparza 91: Mike Pitt 90: Christina Barrueta 89: Christopher Gross 88: Jan Wichayanuparp and Helen Yung 87: DJ Fernandes 86: Cullen Campbell 85: Chris Lee 84. Gwen Ashley Walters 83: Tony Morales 82: Lylah Ledner 81: Andrea White 80: Lori Hashimoto 79. Mrs. White 78: Eugenia Theodosopolous 77: Lou & Lovey Borenstein 76: Anthony Patafio 75: Carl Seacat 74: Sacha Levine 73: Sharon Salomon 72: Johnny Chu 71: Susie Timm 70: Jason Silberschlag 69: Gina Miller 68: Cindy Gentry 67: Amy Binkley 66: Dave Anderson 65: Mark Tarbell 64: Marianne Belardi 63: Audrey Lasalle 62: Brandon Gauthier 61: Brad and Kat Moore 60: Denise Clayton

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Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.