The notoriety gave McDevitt the wherewithal to expand his restaurant, and when he added a lounge, he invited Fukuda to man it. Fukuda accepted, turning out non-traditional sushi and sashimi with wine pairings. Word quickly spread that Hapa had become even more interesting than before.
Fukuda stayed for three years, but he wanted to do more cooking and intended to open his own place -- he planned to call it Monet in Japan -- a few doors down from Hapa. After 9/11, Fukuda's partner/investor disappeared. Soon after, however, Fukuda was approached by Peter Kasperski, who was expanding Ciao at the time as well as acquiring a small adjacent space. The two struck a deal and Sea Saw was born in July 2002. The very next year, Fukuda made Food & Wine's list of Ten Best New Chefs, receiving a personal call from editor Dana Cowin while he was eating his lunch. He didn't know who she was. In 2007, he won the James Beard award for Best Chef Southwest, and two years later, he closed Sea Saw, opening Nobuo at Teeter House the following summer (2010).
He continues to be one of the city's best and most meticulous chefs, sourcing pristine ingredients, combining them in inventive ways and making every plate an almost-too-pretty-to-eat work of art.
Favorite food smell: Caramelized soy, found in BBQ freshwater eel, grilled squid, and yaki tomorokoshi.