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Isamu Kubota

Jo McGarry photo

Chef-owner, Sushi YuZu Restaurants, Ala Moana Hotel, Ko Olina and Wailea, Maui

Where were you born? I was born and raised in Tokyo.

Did you learn to cook there? Yes, my wife, Moco, and I are self-taught cooks. We learned together.

That’s so impressive because at your restaurants (at Ala Moana, Ko Olina and Wailea) you offer such impressive, tasteful food. At what point did you both decide to specialize in organic foods? Oh, about 25 years ago we switched to a healthful way of cooking and eating. At the time, my wife’s brother was very interested in eating organic, sometimes macrobiotic foods, and we decided to do the same.

Your food is always so beautiful and so detailed. Thank you! Yes, well, my wife does 80 percent of the work. She creates almost all of the dishes.

I am a huge fan of your Lotus Cheese Pizza. It seems to perfectly represent your cooking philosophy, leading people gently toward more healthful eating. Yes, it’s one of the favorite menu dishes. It’s sliced lotus root with a mixture of different cheeses. The lotus root is cooked on a teppanyaki grill and the cheese melts on top. It’s very simple, really.

Where do you like to eat? Oh, all kinds of restaurants – we like to eat many different kinds of food, even though it’s not so easy to find lots of organic menus in mainstream Hawaii restaurants. Café Au Lei on Maui is one of my favorite places to eat.

Because you spend all day cooking, do you cook at home? No! Never, never ever! (laughs)

What’s always in your fridge? Right now there’s tofu and some coconut water.

The tofu in your restaurant is the silkiest tofu ever. What’s the trick? We make it here, in the restaurant and we use soy milk. I think the handmade process and the soy helps to make it so smooth.

Are there many gluten-free dishes on your menu? Yes, not all of the dishes, but many are, and we have gluten-free shoyu for all our food.

Do you ever have cravings for junk food? Oh, I love ramen. And sometimes I eat rice cakes. Or maybe soy ice cream once in a while …

Mr. Kubota, that’s not really junk food. (laughs) I’m sorry.

That’s OK. You are a great advertisement for your own restaurants.

Sushi YuZu
Ala Moana Hotel
610 Atkinson Drive