Fukushima is best known for spending years as chef José Andrés’ right-hand man at ThinkFoodGroup, but before he teamed up with the celeb chef, he did stints at other venerated D.C. restos, including Cashion’s Eat Place and Vidalia. Now, Fukushima is preparing to open Daikaya, one of the most hotly anticipated spots in recent memory — and definitely the highest profile outpost in the city’s ramen boom.
What D.C. chef, past or present, has been an inspiration for you? Why?
"Luckily, in the beginning of my career, I worked for Ed Hanson of Ella’s, Ann Cashion of Cashion’s Eat Place, Kaz Okochi of Kaz Sushi, and José Andrés. José is my mentor and the one who influenced me to be the chef that I am today. When I’m in a jam, I ask myself, 'What would José do?'"
If you had to pick a last meal for yourself from a D.C. restaurant, what would it be?
"I would go to Sushiko and ask chef Koji and his team to make me a tasting menu from the whole counter."
What’s the most hilarious or harrowing kitchen disaster you’ve experienced?
"At an event in Texas with José Andrés, I remember wheeling a cart of about 200 piquillo pepper flans from the oven to be plated. We hit an electrical cord and the cart tipped, but we caught it. We laughed and I asked José if he ever had a kitchen disaster. He said he hadn’t. The flans were for another chef, and as we got into the room where they were to be plated, we hit another cord at the entryway and the cart tipped over. I saw the poor chef’s face. José and I looked at each other and instantly shouted 'Spoons!' We dumped all the crushed (but salvageable) flans into a bowl and made quenelles for 200. Luckily, the plate ended up looking elegant, and we ended up with a story."
Who wasn’t on this list that we should have included?
"Mostly I try to avoid these types of lists. I don’t need the spotlight, nor do I feel like I should be singled out. We all work hard and put ourselves out there. This is more about the team."
What dish of yours best exemplifies your approach as a chef?
"Fortunately, I am still searching for that dish."
If you hadn't been a chef, what profession would you have chosen?
"I am truly blessed. I was a math and art major — neither field would have fulfilled me. I don’t sigh or moan after 16 hours in the kitchen. When I ponder what else makes me happy, I think about my younger days of breakdancing and DJing. I could spin vinyl and dance for a living."