Chef Youji Iwakura of Snappy Ramen - Biography

Somerville, MA

September 2015

Youji Iwakura grew up in Japan and came to United States to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston. As a singer, Iwakura belted Stevie Wonder tunes. But as a chef, his style veers more towards jazz—improvisational. After graduating from Berklee, Iwakura faced a tough economy and, like many, took a job as a waiter to get by. Iwakura was energized by the restaurant industry and decided to leave his music career behind to learn the sushi trade, starting at Ginza in Brookline, Massachusetts.

After eight years of training, Iwakura moved to the front of the house, which let him focus on an early childhood dream of his, to become a restaurateur. After working as a bartender at Troquet and as the general manager of several local restaurants, he returned to the kitchen, taking a position at Ken Oringer’s Uni sashimi bar. To further hone his skills, Iwakura returned to Japan for two years and worked at an upscale Japanese brasserie. When he came back to Uni, he was named chef de cuisine. In 2010, he helped open Basho Japanese Brasserie as executive chef and created an innovative Japanese-American menu.

With the invaluable skills he learned, Iwakura moved to Oishii Boston. Next he set up his consulting company, Atelierkitchen Zen, in 2012. In 2013, Iwakura joined Snappy group, first as sake sommelier and then as ramen master at Snappy Ramen in Davis Square, Somerville. Iwakura is working to open his own concept in the Boston area sometime soon.