2021 Los Angeles Rising Star Pastry Chef Gemma Matsuyama of OTOTO and Tsubaki

2021 Los Angeles Rising Star Pastry Chef Gemma Matsuyama of OTOTO and Tsubaki
May 2021

Born in Japan and raised mostly in New Jersey, Gemma Matsuyama fell in love with baking at 15 when she made her first cream puff for her dad. Presenting him with a pastry after his long shift gave her a sense of joy that she hadn’t known before. The daughter of an Italian mother and a Japanese father, she enrolled in a culinary vocational high school in Abruzzo, Italy at the age of 16. Matsuyama studied and cooked at L'Opera pastry shop and the farm-to-table Ristorante Ribo until she was ready to return stateside at 20. 

In New York, she found mentors in Jim Lahey at Sullivan Street Bakery in 2010, Karen Demasco at Locanda Verde in 2011, and Devin McDavid at Blue Hill at Blue Hill in 2013. After two years of connecting with the farmland at Stone Barns, she moved to Los Angeles and found a pastry position at Rising Stars alum Ori Menashe’s Bestia. In 2016, Matsuyama started her own whole grain food truck concept, Pico House, with a side pastry business, Heavy Cream. The truck closed two years later, but the hustle paid off when she landed the head pastry chef role at Chef Niki Nakayama’s n/Naka. Now at two Echo Park sister restaurants, cafe OTOTO and sake-centric izakaya Tsubaki, Matsuyama crafts Japanese desserts with references to her Italian heritage.