Renowned Japanese chef Kenichi “Ken” Tominaga, the legendary operator of Hana Japanese Cafe in Rohnert Park, died Monday early morning right after a temporary health issues. The 61-year-outdated restaurateur was surrounded by household, including his mom, who flew from Japan to be with him.
A native of Tokyo, Tominaga created a cultlike next just after launching Hana Japanese Cafe in 1990 in an unlikely place in the DoubleTree Plaza procuring mall. His aim was to whet Sonoma County’s hunger for the reliable Japanese cuisine he grew up consuming at residence and in restaurants.
Hana swiftly recognized alone as one particular of the Bay Area’s major Japanese eating places, many thanks to Tominaga’s main ideas mentioned on the restaurants’s site: source only the optimum-top quality, freshest fish incorporate only the ideal nearby make and belief that “if you like food stuff, know how to prepare it and attempt to make persons satisfied, you will triumph.”
By way of the yrs, some of the best chefs in Sonoma County lined up at Hana’s personal sushi bar on their evenings off, savoring not only the chef’s large-good quality sushi but convenience foodstuff like the Nabeyaki Udon seafood noodle soup his mom utilised to make.
“Ken was versed in all Japanese food,” reported chef Douglas Keane, who often cooked for Tominaga when he worked at the former Cyrus and Shimo in Healdsburg. “Besides Cyrus, he was the only a single in Sonoma County who was applying IMT (Global Maritime Solutions) and Correct Entire world Foods. They would fly in the fresh new fish at the time a 7 days from Japan.”
Keane, who options to reopen a new Cyrus cafe this tumble in Geyserville, said he first met Tominaga while they each were cooking for many food and wine functions. He admired the chef for his perception of hospitality, get the job done ethic and upbeat individuality.
“Regardless of how very good he was as a chef, he was just a wonderful human,” Keane claimed. “He would often convey to you what a terrific meal he experienced somewhere, and he generally set a smile on your facial area when you noticed him.”
More than the yrs, Tominaga had been sought just after as a partner by other cooks and restaurateurs. When renowned Napa Valley restaurateur Cindy Pawlcyn opened her seafood restaurant Go Fish in St. Helena in 2006, Tominaga held court at the rear of the restaurant’s sushi bar.
“He was these kinds of an wonderful individual, with a spirit that I will normally keep in mind,” reported Sean Knight, Pawlcyn’s company associate. “His talent and specifications ended up at this sort of a superior degree, and he experienced the means to instill this in the people today all over him.”
Extra lately, Tominaga was a person of the partners in Dustin Valette’s The Matheson in Healdsburg, which showcased a sushi bar operate by Tominaga when it opened last November. The sushi bar was not long ago put on hiatus for several reasons, Valette claimed, including Tominaga’s declining wellbeing.
“That dude taught me so a great deal, not only about sushi but also about becoming a accurate human,” Valette said. “He was a fantastic guy and inspirational as a company husband or wife.”
Like other chefs, Valette was a typical consumer at Hana, where by he loved seeing Tominaga choreograph all facets of eating, from the foods to the welcoming ambiance of the cafe.
“Ken made that restaurant particular,” Valette said. “He was these kinds of an integral aspect of that cafe. I adore the food items and the quality. I like viewing a grasp paint. It’s like Michael Jordan plays basketball.”
San Francisco celebrity chef Michael Mina also frequented Hana consistently, and he fell in appreciate with Tominaga’s ingenious omakase menu, tailor-made to every single diner’s tastes.
“Hana was a loved ones restaurant, and when you were being at Hana, you were element of that spouse and children,” Mina mentioned. “Ken produced that link effortless, and I credit score Ken with teaching and displaying me what it actually suggests to run a restaurant like your household. ”
Just after creating a close friendship, Tominaga and Mina opened PABU Izakaya in 2014 in San Francisco’s Fiscal District. The contemporary izakaya and sushi bar was named by Zagat as one of the best Japanese eating places in the region. In 2016, Tominaga and Mina crafted on the restaurant’s success by opening PABU Boston at Millennium Tower.
Tominaga was born on Nov. 12, 1960, in Tokyo, to Katsuya and Keiko Tominaga. Whilst boosting their son in Tokyo, his parents manufactured absolutely sure he was immersed in the city’s lively eating scene. In high university, Tominaga labored his way up in dining establishments, initially as a dishwasher, then as a prep cook dinner, snatching a couple hrs of slumber before heading again to class.
Although learning engineering in university, he fulfilled his wife, Emiko Tominaga, when they were being equally 19. They married in Tokyo.
“She’s the anchor,” explained his son, Keita Tominaga of Petaluma, who is the govt chef of Hana Japanese Cafe. “She’s the explanation my father was capable to devote his life to the work. She took treatment of almost everything else, and my father was in a position to freely commit himself to his craft.”