Rising Star Chef Nando Chang of Itamae - Biography

Miami, FL

February 2021

As children in Chiclayo, Peru, the Chang siblings feasted on Chifa, the Chinese-Peruvian cuisine cooked by their grandmother. When their father, Fernando, immigrated to the U.S. for work, Nando would peel potatoes in a restaurant, and Valerie became her grandmother’s kitchen helper. 

In 2001, they joined their father in Miami. A businessman in Peru, Papa Chang found his calling in America as a sushi chef. From 2014 to 2016, the family reunited to open a kosher Japanese restaurant in Surfside. By 2018, Valerie had left Peruvian traces on James Beard Award-winning Chef Michael Solomonov’s Dizengoff and Federal Donuts. Meanwhile, Nando pursued a career in rap music and pushed through 40-hour sushi shifts.

The Chang Gang partnered with Eric Saltzman and David Morales to set up its own venture in 2018: Itamae, a Nikkei food stall. The next year, they opened B-side Sushi by Itamae and took over the sushi bar in the Miami Heat’s American Airlines Arena. The standalone Itamae, a dream since the beginning, opened this past November. The siblings were semifinalists for James Beard’s Rising Star Chef in 2019, and Valerie received the honor again the next year.