When did your love of food begin?
While it wasn’t always at the forefront of my mind, for as long as I can remember, I’ve always enjoyed cooking. I get that from cooking and gardening with my mother and my grandmothers. I’ve been working in restaurants on and off since I was 15 years old.
What is your favorite cuisine to prepare?
The majority of my training is in Japanese cuisine and sushi, so to that end, most of my cooking starts there. In the last few years, however, I’ve also started working with Native American foods and ingredients.
Tell me more about your new concept with Japanese and Native American cuisine.
The idea for Nani is to take Japanese and Native American comfort foods, dishes that usually call for no more than a few ingredients, and prepare them simply yet elegantly, taking what otherwise might be a humble dish and elevating it by not only making it as best we can but also presenting it in a way that you might not have seen before.
Have you found that people in Oklahoma are familiar with Native American cuisine, or is it a new concept for many?
While most people are familiar with fry bread stands and such offerings as “Indian tacos” and the like, many might not know that nearly all of these dishes were invented out of necessity after tribal relocations and traditional Native American cuisine really had no real recipes to speak of. There were stews, smoked and preserved meats and various grain preparations that were passed down through the years, but everything that you ate was dependent on what you could harvest, hunt, gather or had preserved from seasons prior. They truly lived off of the land.
Where are you at with Nani?
Nani is hosting concept dinners on what seems to be a bimonthly basis, though we are trying to increase the frequency of these events. We’re also available for catering, private dining and pop-up dinners.
What has been the response from your guests?
The response has been overwhelmingly positive, and we’ve garnered quite a following as a result. It’s important to us that we go to great lengths to provide our guests with the best possible experience; from the libations (brewed specially for each dinner) to the dish presentations, everything has to be as perfect as it possibly can be.
Where do you see yourself and Nani a year from now?
Still cooking and learning, though hopefully in a brick-and-mortar location that I can call my own.