Kazuhiko Hayakawa, born and raised in Nagano, Japan, decided to pursue the culinary arts at a young age. At 16, he apprenticed at Hotel Kotobukiya to learn the basic skills for the culinary arts. Soon after, in 1967, he trained at the Ichizaka culinary school where he learned what would form the foundation for his future creations. Ichizaka offered him an opportunity to learn cuisine from a variety of cultures, spanning from traditional Japanese, Chinese, and French cuisine.
Upon completion of culinary school, Hayakawa decided to refine his skills and trained at the famous Tsuruhachi restaurant in Tokyo. At the time, Tsuruhachi was a renowned restaurant from which chefs were brought in to the imperial court to serve the Emperor of Japan. Here, he acquired skills to create beautiful traditional creations, which would serve as the foundation of many course meal dishes in his future restaurant.
After Hayakawa decided to leave Tokyo and move back to Nagano, he trained at the Kaihin hotel to refine his skills in traditional cuisine. Against limiting himself to only traditional Japanese cuisine and eager to further enhance the range of his cuisine in his repertoire, Hayakawa worked at the Central Hotel to include American cuisine.
With many years of training under his belt, he opened his first restaurant – Idol, in Toyota, Japan. Idol offered cuisine which fused French, Italian, and Japanese flavors to accommodate Japanese patrons. However, after 3 years, Hayakawa could no longer resist the urge to pursue his goal of opening a restaurant abroad, and left for Los Angeles, California in 1979.
After working at Café Sushi for 1.5 years (where he met his wife, Chiho Hayakawa), he proceeded to work at Kishoan, a Japanese sushi restaurant in the Beverly Center in Century city, for 8 years. In 1990, he had the opportunity to join the world renowned restaurant Matsuhisa, with Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, in Beverly Hills. Hayakawa says that his most influential experience was at Matsuhisa, where he learned to create cuisine fusing a multitude of flavors appropriate for the American palate, without compromising the fundamental flavors unique to Japanese cuisine.
On June 18, 1993, Hayakawa’s dream finally came to fruition. Kazuhiko Hayakawa, along with his wife Chiho Hayakawa, opened Restaurant Hayakawa in Covina, California. Chef Hayakawa continues to maintain his vision of creating novelty through integrating new flavors with traditional Japanese cuisine.
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