Bio

PROFESSIONAL PROFILE

Roy Yamaguchi is the chef and founder of a collection of restaurants including 30 Roy’s Restaurants in the United States and Guam, the Tavern by Roy Yamaguchi and Eating House 1849. He is revered for his exceptional culinary skills and is known as the innovator of Hawaiian inspired cuisine, an eclectic blend of California-French-Japanese cooking traditions created with fresh ingredients from the Islands. He is the first from Hawaii to have been honored with the prestigious James Beard "Best Pacific Northwest Chef" Award in 1993 and has earned numerous honors including California Chef of the Year (California Restaurant Writers Association) Gault-Millau Top 40 (Forbes FYI), Top 50 Cuisines in America (Conde Nast Traveler), Fine Dining Hall of Fame (Nation’s Restaurant News) and the John Heckathorn Dining Excellence Award (Honolulu Magazine).

Yamaguchi was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. His Hawaii roots are tied to his paternal grandfather who owned a tavern in Wailuku, Maui in the 1940s. He attributes his appreciation for food to his Hawaii-born father and his Okinawa-born mother. Upon graduating from high school, Yamaguchi enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in New York where he received his formal culinary training. After graduating in 1976, he accepted numerous positions at some of the most prestigious California restaurants at the time, L'Escoffier, L'Ermitage, Le Serene, Michael’s and Le Gourmet in the Sheraton Plaza La Reina. In 1984, Yamaguchi opened his first restaurant, 385 North, in Hollywood and in 1988, he moved to Honolulu to open the first Roy’s Restaurant. He is also credited as the mastermind behind the 1994 debut of Outback Steakhouse in Hawaii.

Yamaguchi is also known as a television personality, hosting six seasons of the PBS series, Hawaii Cooks with Roy Yamaguchi, which was broadcast on more than 300 stations in all 50 states, as well as in over 60 countries. Equally notable, he was featured on the Food Network’s My Country, My Kitchen that takes him back to his roots in Japan. Yamaguchi also competed as one of twelve of the nation’s most notable chefs on the first season of Bravo Chanel’s Top Chef Masters and also appeared as Iron Chef Asian, in the first American incarnation of Iron Chef USA.

In 2004, he launched a “Roy Yamaguchi” brand of cookware that sold on the Home Shopping Network. Partnering with Ajinomoto North America in 2011, Yamaguchi has also developed a “Roy Yamaguchi” food product line for national distribution. He has published four cookbooks: Pacific Bounty, Roy’s Feasts from Hawaii, Hawaii Cooks: Flavors from Roy’s Pacific Rim Kitchen and Roy’s Fish and Seafood.

In addition, Yamaguchi, founded and chairs, along with Chef Alan Wong, the Hawai‘i Food & Wine Festival, which has become Hawaii’s premier food and wine destination event. He established the Tom and Warren Matsuda Scholarship Fund, providing scholarships to students to attend the Culinary Institute of the Pacific. Founding the Roy’s Annual Golf Classic more than 17 years ago, Yamaguchi has been instrumental in raising more than $400,000 for Imua Family Service. Yamaguchi also serves as trustee and/or member of numerous nonprofit boards, including the U.S. Japan Council, Go For Broke, Culinary Institute of the Pacific, Hawaii Culinary Education Foundation and Good to Grow.

In addition to the acclaim his restaurants have received, Yamaguchi’s personal influence and community involvement have placed him among the most influential chefs in the nation. In 1996, he gave the commencement speech to graduating class of the CIA and in 2009 was elected to their Board of Trustees. In 2011, Yamaguchi was nominated by the late U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye and earned a political appointment under the Obama Administration to the board of the Corporation for Travel Promotion, now known as Brand USA. He is one of eleven board members for Brand USA and has used his culinary and travel experience to help develop policies and strategies to promote the U.S. as a premier travel destination. He is also part of the U.S Department of State’s American Chef Corps, a network of chefs from across the United States who have agreed to be resources and elevate the role of culinary engagement in America’s formal and public diplomacy efforts.

PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE

Roy’s Restaurants (Nationwide)

Owner/founder/chef 1988 – Present
Roy Yamguchi is the chef/founder of 30 eponymous restaurants in Chandler, Desert Ridge (Arizona); Anaheim, La Jolla, Newport Beach, Pasadena, Rancho Mirage, San Diego, San Francisco, Pebble Beach, Woodland Hills (California); Bonita Springs, Jacksonville, Naples, Orlando, Sarasota, Tampa (Florida); Tumon (Guam); Hawaii Kai, Kaanapali, Ko Olina, Poipu, Princeville, Waikiki, Waikoloa (Hawaii); Chicago (Illinois); Tokyo (Japan); Baltimore (Maryland); Las Vegas (Nevada); Plano (Texas). He also oversees culinary strategic direction and provides inspiration and vision for more than 30 executive chefs and 2,000 employees. 

EDUCATION

The Culinary Institute Of America, Hyde Park, New York
Associate in Occupational Studies Degree in Culinary Arts (1976)
Languages: Japanese

AFFILIATIONS / COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT

  • Corporation for Travel Promotion (Washington, DC) – Board Member
  • The Culinary Institute of America (Hyde Park, New York) - Trustee, Commencement Speaker (1996, 2009)  
  • U.S. - Japan Council (Washington, DC) - Board of Councilors
  • Asian Chefs Association (San Francisco, California) - Honorary Board Member
  • Continental Airlines Congress of Chefs (Nationwide) - Featured Celebrity Chef
  • Go For Broke National Education Foundation (Los Angeles, California) - Past Board Member
  • “Great Chefs of LA” (Los Angeles, California) - Past Honorary Chair
  • Grow For Good, Food and Wine Magazine (National Initiative) - Board Member
  • Authentescapes (Worldwide) – Presenter: South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Japan, Europe and Australia.
  • Modern Luxury Magazine (Nationwide Distribution) - Advisory Board Member
  • Kapiolani Community College, Culinary Institute of the Pacific (Honolulu, Hawaii) – Co-Chair, Capital Campaign
  • Leeward Community College (Pearl City, Hawaii) - Board Member
  • Hawaii Regional Cuisine Chefs (Statewide, Hawaii) - Founding Member, Board of Director
  • Tom and Warren Matsuda Culinary Scholarship Fund (Honolulu, Hawaii) - Founder and Sponsor
  • Roy’s Annual Golf Charity Tournament (Maui, Hawaii) - Founder and Sponsor

AWARDS AND HONORABLE MENTIONS

  • Roy’s Aloha Kitchen Challenge (Nationwide) - Founder and Sponsor
  • Federal Law Enforcement Foundation Citizen’s Academy (Honolulu, Hawaii) - Member
  • Hale Makua Kahului (Maui, HI) - Past Honorary Capital Campaign Chair
  • Imua Family Services (Kahului, Maui, Hawaii) - Honorary Board Member
  • Hale Aina Ohana (Honolulu, HI) - Advisory Board Member
  • Zama High School Alumni Association (Zama, Japan) - President and Board Member

MEDIA APPEARANCES

International/National

  • James Beard Foundation - Best Pacific Northwest Chef (1993)
  • Nation’s Restaurant News – Golden Chain (1992)
  • Forbes FYI – “Gault-Millau Top 40” (1992)
  • Conde Nast Traveler - Top 50 Cuisines in America (1991, 1992)
  • Nation’s Restaurant News Fine - Dining Hall of Fame (1992)
  • Bon Appétit – Cover Story (1988)
  • California Restaurant Writers Association - California Chef of the Year (1986, 1987)

Hawaii

  • Honolulu Magazine – Hale Aina Restaurant of the Year (2010, 2011)
  • Hawaii Statehood Commission – 50 most influential in Hawaii (2009)
  • Bishop Museum, State Museum of Natural and Cultural History - Robert J. Pfeiffer Award (2009)
  • Honolulu Centennial Celebration – 100 most influential in Honolulu (2005)
  • Zagat Hawaii Survey – Most Popular Restaurant (Consecutive Editions)
  • Maui News – Roy’s Kahana Bar & Grill - Best Overall Restaurant (Consecutive Editions)
  • Food & Wine Magazine – Feature Story (1989)
  • Forbes Magazine – Cover Story (1996)
  • UPN Network, Iron Chef USA (2001)
  • PBS series, Hawaii Cooks with Roy Yamaguchi (1993 - 2003)
  • Food Network, East Meets West with Ming Tsai (2005)
  • Travel Channel, Epicurious, Chef Michael Lomonaco (2005)
  • Food Network, My Country My Kitchen (2006)
  • Greater Good Radio, Leaders Inspiring Leaders (2006)
  • CBS, The Early Show (2007)
  • NBC, Live with Regis and Kelly (2007)
  • NBC, Today Show (2007)
  • Hawaii Luxury Magazine, Feature Story (2008)
  • Travel Channel, Bizarre Foods, Andrew Zimmerman (2008)
  • Bravo, Top Chef Masters (2009)
  • NBC iVillage Live (2010)
  • WGN-TV, Chicago (2010)
  • Star TV, South East Asia (2010)

PRIVATE EVENTS - U.S AND FOREIGN DIGNITARIES

  • President William Clinton (United States)
  • Vice President Dan Quayle (United States)
  • General Eric Shinseki (United States)
  • U.S. Secretary of Treasury Robert Rubin (United States)
  • U.S. Secretary of Treasury William Simon (United States)
  • President Corazon Aquino (Philippines)
  • Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko (Japan)
  • Princess Chulabhorn (Thailand)

GUEST CHEF APPEARANCES

  • Grammy Awards in Los Angeles (1985, 1986, 1987)
  • Beijing Food & Wine Festival (1998)
  • World Gourmet Summit in Singapore (2001)
  • American Culinary Federation, Keynote Speaker (2003)
  • Grammy Awards in New York (2004)
  • Cooking for Solutions at the Monterey Bay Aquarium (2004)
  • The Feast of Many Moons in New York (2004)
  • Cannes Film Festival in France (2005)
  • Golan Heights Food & Wine Israel (2005)
  • World Gourmet Festival in Thailand to benefit AIDS (2005)
  • Korea Food & Wine Festival (2006)
  • The Sony Open in Hawaii (2006)
  • Muhammad Ali Fight Night Charity Event in Phoenix (2007 – 2010)
  • South Beach Food & Wine Festival (2009)
  • Superbowl XLII Charity Event with Jordan Sparks in Tampa Bay (2009)
  • Abu Dhabi Food & Wine Festival (2010)
  • New York Food & Wine Festival (2010)
  • San Diego Wine & Food Festival (2010)
  • Common Threads (2011)
  • Palm Springs Food & Wine (2011)
  • Five Star Sensation, Cleveland (2011)
  • Central Coast Wine Classic (2011)
  • Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Colorado (Multiple Years)
  • Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival (Multiple Years)
  • World Food & Wine Festival (Multiple Years)
  • Maui Food & Wine Festival (Multiple Years)

PUBLICATIONS