Interview with New York City Rising Star Masa Urushido of Saxon + Parole

by Sean Kenniff
February 2017

Sean Kenniff: How did you get your start? 
Masa Urushido:
When I was 19 years old, I was delivering pizza, and I wanted something different. I looked through the classifieds and found the first place I could with someone who spoke English, and had no idea it was one of Tokyo's finest restaurants. Six months after I started, the head bartender left, so I jumped behind the bar, and was making and learning the classics and carving ice. I’m pretty lucky to have met the right people at the right time. I left Tokyo and moved to New York eight years ago, and my first job was at Kingswood. It was there that I was introduced to Naren Young, and I moved to AvroKo to work under him. I was at The Daily, and I recently came over to Saxon + Parole to take over the program.

SK: What’s your involvement in the Moscow location of Saxon + Parole?
I do all of the spring and fall menu changes there, so I’m constantly in contact with the team in Moscow. I usually bring a quarter to half of the menu with me when I go, and develop the rest of it when I'm there. Last time I went, I gave them a week and half's notice so they could make whatever they wanted for me. When I get there, the bar is all set up, and they present drinks to me with the criteria I give them, like using local traditions from where they're from, make them seasonal, authentic. It’s always original because it's a combining of cultures, similar to how it is here in New York. I adjust the drinks, but they get the credit.

SK: How are you involved in the local culinary community?
I did a charity event at Angel’s Share with Japanese bartenders here and raised $6,000 dollars, and all of the proceeds went to the Kumamoto earthquake victims. I’m always interested in giving back, it's just another form of sharing. Charity work is important. Whenever I have the chance, I contribute to these causes, have some drinks, and I feel good about it.

SK: What is your approach to sustainability behind the bar?
Ryan [Chetiyawardana] from White Lyan is the pioneer of the sustainable approach to bartending, and having minimal to no waste. What I wanted to convey was that while the idea of sustainability is important, for us it’s more about our attitude than the quantity we’re saving. If we maximize the little things that carry a lot of flavor, then at the end of the day, it minimizes waste.  

SK: What’s your five year plan?
I get to travel so much now, and it's all about the people and hospitality. I love sharing ideas and flavors, and will continue to travel. I’m going to Japan in August, and I’m judging the global finals of the Chivas Regal cocktail competition.