NODdoc 3: Tara Norvell & Yuji Haraguchi, Co-Executive Chefs, Okonomi

Our third NODdoc goes to Tara Norvell and Yuji Haraguchi – Co-Executive Chefs of Okonomi restaurant based in Brooklyn, NY.

Tara: There’s a lot to learn from, Japanese food.

I mean there’s so much to learn about cooking it, but just in the way that it… especially the philosophy, and the whole philosophy is like “mottainai” and… that’s a word that I didn’t know existed but like it’s *everything* to me know, it means everything to me because, it’s… just a mindful way of life.

Living mindfully and… not just an awareness of others, but an awareness of your surroundings, your food, your… and your waste… your personal waste and the waste around you, and how to not waste not just food but time, or ideas, or…. especially time and ideas.

We use what we have, you know? We don’t really think about like “oh what if we had this and we’re gonna get it with this and that would be GREAT and we could swirl it and twirl it and throw it in the air, and you know, see if someone catches it!”

Yuji: So the important thing for me is that no matter how much I want to grow business, I sort of don’t want to succeed.

The idea of being successful can make you feel a little bit overconfident sometimes, and then you stop learning.

So I’d rather make mistakes that are not critical… so people keep coming back… and so I can improve.

I just cut myself, two days ago, very bad. And I was like “wow, I thought I could’ve cut this fish after so many years, but still missed it and cut myself… you know, that’s important. Because that makes me realize that I’m not good enough. And I always tell my teams “see, I cut myself, don’t ever think you can cut fish.”

Tara: It’s really satisfying. Even going home at the end of the day and just changing the way we cut one vegetable… it satisfies me so much more than like, you know, making commission on sales, or, making money, or… yeah, something that I guess you would think drives ambition, but that’s not what drives us. Learning things and creating new things is what drives… our ambition.

Yuji: It’s really hard to change your career and then… trying to pursue your dream, but sometimes your ideas are much stronger and passions are much stronger than your skills or experience and then, those will catch up eventually.

So experience and skills you can build, but passions and ideas you can’t build.

Tara: 🙂

Interview & Edit by Jenna Matecki
Shot & Produced by ROARK
Color Grade by Na Thirakomen