2014 Los Angeles Rising Star Chef Atsushi Takatsuki of MB Post
1142 Manhattan Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90266
Atsushi Takatsuki was born in Los Angeles and raised in the South Bay. His paternal grandparents were tangerine farmers from Shikoku, Japan. His maternal grandparents were strawberry farmers in California. Takatsuki’s mother is the best cook he knows. Growing up, she showed her children that cooking is something you do for people you care about. When Takatsuki completed his last growth spurt in the eighth grade, his dream of playing for the L.A. Lakers was squashed. He then went into cooking, not because he had to, but because he loved it.
Takatsuki studied at the California Culinary Academy and apprenticed at Jules Verne in Paris. His first professional position was at FP Patisserie in New York. There he worked closely with Philippe Bertineau, who after two years, sent Takatsuki to Le Bernardin. Spending two more years in the house that Ripert built, Takatsuki left Le Bernardin and the East Coast for his hometown, where he joined the Thousand Cranes team at the New Otani Hotel. Next, he earned the executive sous chef position at Michael Mina’s Stonehill Tavern, followed by a chef de cuisine gig at Café Del Rey. Three years later, he joined StarChefs.com Rising Star Chef David LeFevre’s opening team at MB Post as chef de cuisine. In his role there, Takatsuki serves food with great integrity, humility, and soul—just the way his mother taught him.
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Interview with Los Angeles Rising Star Chef Atsushi Takatsuki of MB Post
Antoinette Bruno: How did you get your start?
Atsushi Takatsuki: My biggest influence was my mom, who was a really great cook. She felt like it was really important we all helped out and did our part in the family. Cooking became part of what we all did. My sisters and brothers are also awesome cooks. I went to culinary school in San Francisco at the California Culinary Academy. I did an apprenticeship in France right after at the restaurant Jules Verne in Paris. Then I went to New York and worked with some really great chefs that were able to mentor me and give me some great advice.
First, I worked at was Francois Payard's original bakery and also worked with Philippe Bertineau, who really gave me a foundation. Philippe became my first mentor and taught me about the importance of the farmers market, fresh produce, and striving to become a very well rounded cook. From Francois Payard, I learned attention to detail. After working there for two years, Francois was the pastry chef at Le Bernardin, and after graduating, it was one of the top places I really wanted to work. Francois made that happen for me. I spent two years there, but wanted to be back around family and friends, and the weather on the West Coast is so much better than on the east coast! I came back here, and Michael Mina was opening up the St. Regis, so I had another opportunity to work with another amazing mentor there. Josh Skenes and Adam Keough really mentored me there, too. They showed me a lot of great technique and product. After that, I was most recently the chef de cuisine at Cafe Del Rey. Then I met Chef David [Lefevre], who was opening up here in my neighborhood. I grew up here and was excited to be part of it. I've been here for three years now. I've been with MB Post since it opened.
AB: Do you recommend culinary school?
AT: I got a lot out of going. I didn't have a culinary foundation. I didn't know how to make a veal stock or recognize a lot of the herbs out there. It depends, but I got a lot out of it.
AB: What’s your favorite dish to make and eat?
AT: Pork Curry
AB: What’s the most important kitchen rule?
AT: Be respectful of ingredients, people, and tools.
AB: Where do you most want to go for culinary travel?
AT: I'd love to go to Hong Kong, Spain, Italy. The more and more I cook, what I like to eat has really changed over the years and different cultures have so much to offer as far as diversity. French cooking has lots of rouxs and sauces; in Asian culture there are lots of stocks and fish sauces; every culture has cooking that is soulful.
AB: How are you involved in the local culinary community?
AT: I stay involved locally with the farmers market, the local schools. MB has a program with the elementary school. The kids come to the restaurant for a day. We talk about restaurant life, people looking to do this one day, eating soft serve and cookies. We have a great relationship with the farmers, so we make a point to stay dedicated to that. We get tremendous help from the crew here. It's a good feeling knowing that people around me are just as excited as I am.
AB: What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to do in your career?
AT: Working in kitchens like Le Bernardin and Payard—tough kitchens. When I talk about MB Post, it's such a fun place to be, when you come here, even in the kitchen, everyone has fun and people love it here. In some kitchens I've been in, it’s how my grandpa talks about the war. You're a better person for it, but I don't know if it's the most fun thing you've done.
AB: How do you describe your cuisine?
AT: Very soulful. Some of my best moves are from my mom.
AB: What's your five-year plan?
AT: Having a place, hopefully cooking with my mom and dad. They don't have a restaurant, but love being involved. My dad grows a bunch of random, weird stuff. I’m looking at tubers and other stuff; he's retired. He does a gardening program with his friends locally just for fun. He's into orchids and things like that.
AB: What is your philosophy on food and dining?
AT: Eating should be fun and shared with people you love. I aim to cook delicious, simple food that people can relate to on an emotional level, while at the table with friends and family.
AB: What are you most proud of in your career?
AT: I’m proud of the work we did over the last three years at MB Post. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished, the progress we’ve made, and the team we have.