Guest Celebrity Chefs

Food and Wine Festival, San Diego Bay, Chef Makoto OkuwaMakoto

Executive Chef

Makoto Okuwa, though fresh faced and young, brings over twenty years of experience in traditional Japanese style cooking, when approaching his sushi bar with innovative techniques. Raised in Nagoya, Japan, Makoto’s innate passion for food was evident early on as he embarked on his first attempt to prepare a hand roll at the young age of 3. Makoto had never experienced American foods but was always intrigued by the culture, leading him to undertake his first omelet preparation when he was 12 years old. Even as an adolescent, Makoto was thinking outside the boundaries of the kitchen that was offered to him.

At the age of 15, Makoto began an apprenticeship with Sushi Master Makoto Kumazak where he began to learn the basics of Japanese cuisine. His study continued under the tutelage of legendary Sushi Master Chef Shinichi Takegasa, who further enhanced and honed his skills in traditional Japanese cuisine. After ten years of training in Japan, Makoto yearned to expand his body of work and decided that a move to the United States would allow him to express his art fully. Settling in Washington D.C., Makoto worked closely with Iron Chef Morimoto and was soon asked to assume the Head Sushi Chef role at Chef Morimoto’s first American restaurant, in partnership with restaurateur Stephen Starr in Philadelphia and then five years later to open and lead the team of Morimoto NY. Over the years, Morimoto’s knowledge and commitment to traditional Japanese technique became the foundation for Makoto and Chef Morimoto became a life long mentor. While working along side Chef Morimoto, Makoto competed on Iron Chef America, playing an integral part in many successful battles for Chef Morimoto.

In 2007, Makoto fulfilled a lifelong dream by opening up his own restaurant, Sashi Sushi + Sake Lounge in Manhattan Beach, California, where he remains a partner. It was here that Makoto had the freedom to be creative with the traditional Japanese cuisine he had become accustomed to preparing by pushing these boundaries with global influences. His fresh take on sushi earned Sashi accolades from Los Angeles Magazine and the LA Times. Sashi was also a favorite of local celebrities including Kourtney Kardashian, Miley Cyrus and Jimmy Kimmel.

In 2011, Makoto has reached a career high by partnering with famed restaurateur Stephen Starr, opening his eponymous restaurant in the renowned Bal Harbour Shops of Miami. By rejoining Starr Restaurants, Makoto will continue to evolve his culinary style crafting playful, exquisitely presented dishes, which pay tribute to Japanese traditions. “I have a true respect for keeping with Japanese tradition but also feel it’s important to add my own variation in order to appeal to a wide array of palates,” says Makoto. For this project, he draws inspiration from his colleagues, mentors and Bal Harbor’s well traveled, upscale clientele.

Makoto has received the James Beard Foundation for outstanding contribution award and a New York Rising Star Chef award by He also made several appearances on the Food Network’s original “Iron Chef America” alongside his mentor Iron Chef Morimoto. In 2009, Makoto was asked to appear on Iron Chef America as a competitor, allowing him to showcase his extraordinary culinary expertise. When Makoto is not in the kitchen he enjoys the finer things in life including high end fashion and surfing and looks forward to riding the waves in Miami. Most recently, Makoto hosted a prestigious dinner at the James Beard House.