Revered chef and owner of Hana Japanese Restaurant in Sonoma County, CA, Ken Tominaga has established himself as one of the country’s leading authorities on Japanese cuisine.
While growing up in Japan, Tominaga’s parents fully immersed him in the city’s vibrant dining scene. He started his apprenticeship at an early age and quickly fell in love with the culinary world. Throughout high school, he worked his way up in restaurants, first as a dishwasher, then as a prep cook.
After graduation, Tominaga moved to California where the local restaurant scene and the influence of French, Italian, and Chinese cuisine began to steer his culinary point of view. He eventually seized the opportunity to return to his first love, cooking, and headed to Tokyo to attend the Akasaka Cooking School. By day, he learned to cook everything from tempura to udon. By night, he frequented his favorite sushi restaurants, studying the work of the sushi masters he’d known since he was a boy.
In 1990, Tominaga opened Hana Japanese Restaurant with huge success, established a following among fellow chefs and also achieved multiple media accolades. James Bead award-winning chef Michael Mina visited Hana on the recommendation and fell in love with Tominaga’s inventive omakase. As Mina and Tominaga developed a friendship and a mutual admiration for one another’s craft, they began plans to collaborate on a modern Japanese izakaya concept found at Mina’s PABU restaurants in San Francisco and Boston.
Known for highlighting his creative twist on traditional Japanese dining options, Mina brought Tominaga in to manage Ramen Bar, one of the 12 food stations found at Mina’s second Hawai‘i eatery, The Street, A Michael Mina Social House. Offering a variation of Japan’s popular ramen dishes, Ramen Bar features Tominaga’s favorite childhood recipes. Guests will find traditional ramen toppings such as chashu, nori, kamaboko, naruto-maki, green onions, bamboo shoots, and soft boiled eggs. Nearly every region in Japan has its own variation and style of ramen, from the tonkotsu (pork bone broth) of Kyushu to the miso of Hokkaido, and at The Street, Tominaga makes it his own by incorporating Tokyo-style menu influences developed from his culinary career and childhood.