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Shota Nakajima

The Path Leading to Redhook Brewlab

Last month Shota shared his background, his view on life and work, and the opening of his restaurants. This month we learn how his views inform his work, and his new partnership with Redhook Brewlab.

Shota sees two types of people: obstacle-driven and path-driven. "If you see only the things that will stop you, nothing ever gets done. You want to ski, but you think it's too cold or icy or there are trees, you won't go. If you're grateful for what you have right now, build habits of self-discipline and consistency, you'll be the best version of yourself. It's harder and takes effort. Start small. Take 10 minutes each day to write your schedule. In your 20s, you see what you can handle and work the hardest. In your 30s, you learn boundaries and where to draw the line. If the price of winning is too high, you don't want to see the check for regret. Cultivate that in yourself and your team. Be clear. I want to work hard now so I don't have to later in life. I have no filter when I interview: it's grind time right now. If you're looking for a good work/life balance, this is not the place for you. As an owner, I have two jobs: keep the lights on and pay employees. I'm trying to build a system that is not salary based. Managers get profit sharing for their work and for each event. When you have a salary, you tend to stop contributing after 6 months and just do the basics. I would. With a profit-sharing model, the more time you put in, the more you get out. When people are in their 30s, they need to make six digits a year to make it financially. It's my job to figure out how to do this in the restaurant industry. We're halfway there with our managers and I'm working on getting all of them to that level.

Photo by Austin Quach

"The service industry is such a beautiful place to be. The TV appearances taught me that I can prepare a meal for 12-13 hours and see a smile from a guest. That makes me happy. I can talk to a fan who knows me from TV, and it might make their week. You can really spread that joy out. That's the coolest thing that came of all this."

Shota has known the Redhook team for several years. Taku is busy with little space. Redhook Brewlab has space but needs good kitchen management. "Out of the pandemic, my mindset has been about working with others. I call it passive operation. Let us do what we're good at and let Redhook management do what they're good at. Now the GM has to worry about 20 things and not 40 - he no longer has to think about the fryer or the refrigeration. That's us. Originally, I wanted to do Japanese street food, but the more time I spent at Brewlab and saw the regulars and felt the energy, it seemed forceful to come in with Japanese food. It needed to be more about the neighborhood than me." Kobo Pizza was born. 

Shota trained in Osaka, the "Starch City" of Japan. "It's about carbs, carbs, carbs. You have ramen with a side of rice. In LA, I tried something that smelled almost like Japanese milk bread coming out of the oven. I was taken back to smelling baking bread at 4 a.m. That's how my mom grew up. The top two floors were bedrooms, the second floor was kitchen and living area, and the bottom floor was a complete bakery. Everyone worked. Kids sold baked goods on the street.

The Dodger is named after Shota's border collie

"I said, 'Let's R&D pizza.' I'm inspired by Detroit-style pizza that has a fluffy dough and a crispy edge. We use a mix of traditional and sweet rice flours that gives a unique texture and flavor to the dough. We add dried seaweed and fermented rice for the umami factor. It's not traditional Japanese at all; we're having fun making something different. Within the first two weeks we were selling out in two hours. But if the pizza doesn't appeal to someone, Taku is right next door with gluten-free karaage chicken.

"I consider it a strength that I am relentlessly willing to make mistakes. There's no right or wrong way. Why are you scared to try something? You have to protect yourself from words that come into your ears. I want to impress on people that they need to shoot for their goals. And you always have to be grateful for what you have. I have four limbs, a job, family, I eat good food, I'm not financially stuck like I was, and my dog is beautiful.

"There are these tiny Japanese fireworks called senko-hanabi fizzlers. You light them at the end of the night. They spark and drop; each one is different. I think if you're going to sparkle and drop, you should be awesome while you do it."

Connie Adams/November 2022

Kōbo
Redhook Brewlab
714 E Pike Street
Seattle, WA 98122
info@kobopizza.com
www.kobopizza.com

Taku
706 E Pike Street
Seattle, WA 98122
206-829-9418
www.takuseattle.com

Zeppole

Make Umami
Chef shop curated by Chef Shota Nakajima
makeumami.com


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