We had the good fortune of connecting with Yoko Hasebe and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Yoko, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Since I moved to Los Angeles in 2016,I have been working as a sushi chef awhile I pursue my dreams as a professional dancer. I would go take three dance classes during the day or go to an audition and run to work afterwards like so many dancers do in this city. However, In 2018, when I got to the studio one day, I just started to cry in my car and didn’t go into studio that day. When I think about it now, I know I was simply exhausted. I wanted to be successful so bad I didn’t realize I had given up on simple habits that kept me healthy&happy such as eating balanced meal and getting enough sleep.I was very happy that I was pursuing my dreams but my physical and mental health was out of balance and it affected my performance in dancing and my mood. I decided to take a break from taking classes, and fix my habits and become healthy& happy outside of dancing. That was when I decided to start eating plant-based. I started to avoid processed food and eat more of fresh food instead. Slowly, I started feel more energized and healthier. As I became more cautious about how I ate, I stared to feel guilty for the customers about serving food that I was making at the sushi restaurant. Although a lot of people may think sushi is healthy, it actually has lots of salt in fish and sugar in rice. Eventually, the sushi restaurant asked me if I can create vegan sushi menu. I became very passionate about evolving my cultural food in more sustainable way. The vegan menu became very successful, however, when the COVID19 hit, I was lied off. I was frustrated, but I took it as a chance to start my own plant-based sushi business from my home. While I was delivering my plant-based sushi to my close friends as a start, I became certain that I can keep creating food that I believe that’s good for our body and mind without a restaurant. I always knew I wanted to start my own business at some point, I just felt this the time to do it. I was terrified but at the same time, my customers’ smile made me feel very happy. I believe my purpose is to keep creating food that nurture our mind& body in this crazy time.
What should our readers know about your business?
The lesson I have learned so far is to stay open enough to follow my curiosity and also to stay strong to protect it. When I started to eat and cook plant-based, some of my coworkers looked at me like I’m crazy. In Japanese culture, there is norm that it’s selfish to be picky with food. Although I love my own culture and the traditional sushi with fish, I didn’t feel right to keep serving the food I don’t feel good eating at the restaurant any more. That feeling made me even curious and passionate about creating new plant-based sushi that taste fresh and authentic. As a female sushi chef, it is not easy to speak up, but my business is also my way of speaking up to the unsustainable sushi restaurant industry. I am still learning everyday to keep my business sustainable as possible, but it is crucial that we are aware of what we are actually doing to our environment where we are making profits from.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
As a dancer… Malaya, Dana Foglia and Liana Blackburn They are my amazing teacher & mentor that I look up to. Liana Blackburn’s workshop especially helped me to follow my curiosity and not wait to create. As a Chef… Kimiyasu Enya He’s the owner of Sushi Enya that I worked for, and he taught me all of the essential basics as a sushi chef. I wouldn’t have been able to start my business without him.
Lauren Kate/ Static Fox Photography / Gunner James