Kuniko Yagi is the executive chef of the newly opened Century City restaurant Hinoki & the Bird, focusing on the flavors of Japan and Southeast Asia. Yagi’s from Maebashi City, Japan, and though she has no formal culinary training, she landed a job in the kitchen at David Myers’ Sona after moving to Los Angeles. She most recently was executive chef at Myers’ Comme Ca and appears on this season’s “Top Chef.”
What’s coming up next on your menu? I’m thinking of a pasta dish, but not an Italian dish, rather something more our style here at Hinoki & the Bird, like handmade buckwheat pasta with duck confited in Asian spices. Also, we just bought a French fry slicer so we’re working on developing our own fries here at Hinoki. I’ll probably make them with russet potatoes because I really like their texture and earthy flavor.
Latest ingredient obsession? Koji – it’s fermented rice grain. We use koji to make all of our rice here at Hinoki, like the organic grilled rice. The flavor is sweeter and milder.
What restaurant do you find yourself going to again and again? I like Hiko Sushi on National. Every time I go I just let the chef serve me whatever he wants.