Chef News

Nobuo Fukuda on What He Misses About Japan and the Difference Between a Japanese and an American Chef

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The job was great, but he felt that working in a Japanese restaurant with Japanese colleagues did little for his assimilation into American culture. Because he liked to ski and loved the drama inherent in an emergency, he began thinking about getting a job on the ski patrol. But first, he'd have to get EMT certification, which meant hitting the books -- in English. Fukuda studied so hard he got ulcers, barely completing the hours-long certification test in time, but he passed.

He worked ski patrol in the White Mountains, spending his summers at Yamakasa when the snow melted. Yamada sent him to Ayako for training, and Fukuda also staged in Japan, but ski patrol was still his passion, and he spent nearly 10 years earning U.S. certification, which he says was a "huge deal," as well as one of the most meaningful accomplishments of his life.

One summer, he met his future wife, Sarah (also an avid skier), at Yamakasa, where she was working as a hostess. They married in 1996, but Fukuda was still living at the top of Apache Peak at 11,000 feet. She had no problem skiing down to the bottom of the mountain when she was eight months pregnant, but his employers weren't exactly keen on the legal ramifications of an accident, and Fukuda began to think about the restaurant business as a full-time thing, given his growing family.

He dreamed of opening his own café and wine bar, but knew nothing about what he calls "European-style cooking." It was 1999, and James McDevitt -- chef-owner of the former Hapa Restaurant in Scottsdale -- has just been featured as one of the Ten Best New Chefs in Food & Wine.

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Nikki Buchanan