Born in Kumamoto, Japan in 1951, Kazuto
left his homeland at the age of twenty-two
to pursue his dream of becoming a Chef
in the United States. With limited English,
yet limitless aspirations, he readily found
employment as a teppan chef in a Japanese
restaurant in Los Angeles. His desire to
broaden his education in different cuisines,
however, was insatiable and he was encouraged
by his mentor, Hideo Yamashiro, of Shiro
in Pasadena, to broaden his horizons.
Accepting a position with the well-known
French restaurant Ma Maison, Kazuto found
himself under the direct tutelage of an
up-and-coming star chef by the name of
Wolfgang Puck. This was to be the beginning
of a long and very influential relationship.
From the outset, it was obvious to Kazuto
that the cuisine Puck was creating was
something very different and the start
of something big.
After a stunning residency on board Wolfgang's
adventure into what was then the avant
garde, Kazuto felt compelled to fine-tune
his foundational cooking skills. Thus,
he joined L'Ermitage, to take advantage
of an opportunity to work alongside highly
regarded French chef Michel Blanchet. This
period, more than any other, was where
Kazuto honed the classical training and
stylings for which he is known and respected.
In 1982, wishing to deepen his experience
of the unbridled creativity of Wolfgang
Puck, Kazuto returned to the master's kitchen
when he accepted a position at Spago. Recognizing
Kazuto's now-formidable abilities, and
the added sophistications and flair of
his Asian culinary background, Puck soon
placed him at the helm of the newly opened
Chinois on Main in Santa Monica. This marriage
of chef and restaurant would last an unprecedented
nine years, during which time Kazuto would
establish himself as one of Los Angeles'
brightest stars on the culinary scene.
Ruth Reichl, then Food Critic for the Los
Angeles Times and now Editor of Gourmet
Magazine, commented, "Kazuto looks
incredibly elegant in the restaurant's
open kitchen. Customers love to sit at
the counter, watching as he wields his
knife with the ease of a sushi chef."
Eventually, as it is with so many of Puck's
protégés, it was time for
Kazuto to 'leave the nest' and break out
on his own. Zenzero was born.
With Zenzero, Kazuto created a lighter
style of his now famous California-Asian
cuisine. The raves for his culinary feats
continued to roll in. Ruth Reichl declared,
in the title of her review, that "Kazuto
Knows Food." Caroline Bates of Gourmet
Magazine exclaimed that "Matsusaka
understands the East-West kitchens as well
as anyone around." Food and Wine's
Colman Andrews added his kudos, "Matsusaka's
food, as you would expect, balances deftly
on the cutting edge of the Pacific Rim."
As one of the acknowledged pioneers of
what is now commonly known as fusion cuisine,
Kazuto's reputation grew not only locally--
but internationally. Kazuto soon found
himself working in France, with his wife
Vicki Fan Matsusaka, as the consulting
executive chef for George V Restauration.
He was instrumental in opening Parisian
hot spot Buddhabar, but also managed to
keep his ties strong to his beloved and
adopted L.A., helping to open Barfly in
In rapid-fire sequence, yet another new
project materialized in the form of a collaboration
with Larry Forgione in New York City. Creating
an Asian-influenced menu focusing on American
ingredients, Kazuto was honored to work
with Larry, the legendary "Godfather
of American Cuisine" and enjoyed getting
to know one of the world's most exciting
culinary cities. Located in the heart of
the Theater District, Restaurant Above
soon became a popular destination for locals
and tourists alike. Upon completion of
the project, Kazuto discovered that he
missed the cool ocean breeze and sunshine
of his long-time home of Santa Monica.
He returned with wife Vicki to pursue his
desire of opening his own restaurant, Beacon,
an asian cafe.