I want to make people happy with my food and keep making sushi until I'm really old....kinda like Jiro from Sukiyabashi Jiro!
photo credit Kate LeSueur
Yoshi Okai was born and raised in Kyoto, Japan, where he was introduced to the culinary world at a young age through his family’s catering company. Because of his parents’ hectic work schedules, Okai and his three siblings were often responsible for cooking meals. In 1998, Okai landed in Austin after leaving landscaping school to dedicate time and energy to his band, The Kodiaks, which was gaining popularity in the area.
He then began work at Benihana alongside Ramen Tatsu-ya’s Tatsu Aikwa and Thai-Kun’s Thai Changthong. Okai was introduced to future collaborator and friend Paul Qui at Uchi and Uchiko, where Okai served as head sushi chef for six years. After a stint as head chef at East Side King, Okai joined Qui at his namesake restaurant, Qui, in 2014.
In 2015, Yoshi was named head chef of Otoko, Paul Qui’s 12-seat Japanese restaurant located at South Congress Hotel. He currently plays with the band Kuroneko (Black Cat), a reference to a 1960’s Japanese horror film. Okai says he sees parallels between making sushi and making music: they both require flexibility, and they both make people happy.
What is your go-to hangover meal?
Well, I'm one of the few people don't get hangover so I guess drink more beer!
What experience are you looking to craft for your guests?
Excitment, is the most important experience I'm looking to craft. I always want to make them excited, surprised and happy with my food.
If you could cook for anyone in the world, who would it be?
The Best Place to grab coffee in Austin?
Who is the chef you most respect in Austin?
Tim Kerr. (He is not a chef, but I respect him more than anyone in Austin.)
The best place to get a cocktail in Austin?
Whisler's. The cocktails are well crafted and has an awesome environment.
The Best Restaurant in Austin (other than Otoko)?
Do you have any habits or rituals when you travel?
I love to try local beers and go to record stores.