If you’re lucky enough to live, eat, and drink in New York, Seju Yang is the kind of Renaissance Man you’ll want to make friends with. A Japanese native, Yang is fluent in Japanese and Korean. He’s a music buff (his pairing style is informed by a deep appreciation for musical relationships). And in his career as a sommelier, Yang comfortably straddles Old World, New World, Eastern, and Western wine lists.
Yang’s forays into the beverage industry were both front and back (to so speak) of the house, on both the service and production side of things . Yang began his career as a sommelier at New York City’s Sakagura in 2004, where he was responsible for overseeing inventory and assisting diners in sake pairings, as well as creating educational sake curriculums for the staff. Eager to further educate himself, and obviously enamored with the world of sake, Yang took a trip to Japan to experience sake production firsthand.
Yang studied Japanese sake breweries briefly but intensely, studying sake brewing for one week in the Yamaguchi prefecture and sake ageing for two days in the Kyoto prefecture, before returning to New York—a walking sake encyclopedia. Meanwhile, in the front of house, Yang further refined that leadership role at Kyoya, Brooklyn’s 1 or 8, and as a floor sommelier Tocqueville sister restaurant 15 East. Now as sommelier of David Bouley’s long-anticipated Brushstroke, Yang oversees the restaurant’s wine and sake—in both inventory and education—and creates pairings for each of Chef Isao Yamada’s kaiseki courses. Indeed, the ceremony, tradition, and complexity of kaiseki at Brushstroke (produced with a modern, seasonal, local sensibility) allow Yang to use the fullest extent of his expertise, often defying entrenched expectations with his creative pairings.