Chef Ken Takayama of Melisse Restaurant - Biography

Santa Monica, CA

October 2011

Dreams of basketball stardom were permanently deferred for Chef Ken Takayama when he discovered a similar kind of teamwork, with its own enticing rhythms, in the restaurant kitchen. Born in Saitama, Japan and raised in Southern California’s Monterey Park, Takayama got his first pro shot at cooking at a neighborhood restaurant, where he learned traditional techniques for preparing robata, sushi, tempura, and other basic components of Japanese cuisine.

More sophisticated gigs were soon to follow, with Takayama working under Christophe Moreau for Patina Pastry from 1999 to 2001. Ambitious and determined, Takayama set his sites on Melisse, the über-sophisticated, contemporary French outpost of Chef Josiah Citrin. Not one to give up, Takayma knocked not twice, but three times, on the back door of Melisse before Chef Citrin finally let him try out.

Once he had secured himself a spot as sous chef at Melisse, Takayama put his head down and worked like a man driven by promising knowledge of what he could become. Although shy and unassuming in person, Takayama quickly proved himself an integral and creative component of the Melisse team. And after nine years of patient, meticulous work, he was promoted to chef de cuisine. From this well-deserved perch, Takayama creates elegant plates to suit the two-Michelin starred restaurant’s legacy and express his own matured style. And while he may not enjoy the celebrity status of a pro-baller, Takayama has proven his all-star skills in the kitchen.