I was raised in Claremont, a college town outside of Los Angeles. Enjoying the California lifestyle growing up I was passionate about food, art, and skateboarding. I attended High School extension courses on full scholarship to Pasadena Art Center College of Design while being sponsored and competing in the California Amateur Skateboard League. The summer before my senior year I was selected to be an exchange student to go to Italy. I arrived to meet my host family in Ripabella, Tuscany, to spend the summer living in their sixth century villa with a small vineyard growing Sangiovese and Pinot Grigio. This is where I fell in love with great food, wine, and the mysteries of fermentation science and winemaking.
“I knew that my life had changed once I had been exposed to such an amazing culture of hospitality, cuisine, and especially wine”.
After returning home and completing my degree in psychology from the University of California, San Diego I decided to go in a different direction. I decided to return to dining room service. But then my life took an unexpected turn. I was called to Hawaii through many extremely vivid dreams which occurred night after night until I finally decided to make the move to the islands with no job, no contacts, and no friends to assist me when I was to arrive. I was able to land a job as a morning busboy at Duke’s Canoe Club and that is where my Hawaii journey began. Working up through the ranks at Duke’s led to working for American Wine and Spirits, the fine wine division of Southern Glazer Wine and Spirits, Oahu. Being mentored by the late Alan Suzuki, and three Master Sommeliers during my time as a sales representative there I was able to pursue my passion for wine and spirits and it became a successful career. I feel honored to have been in Alan Suzuki’s DOJO of food and wine pairing. He was a tough teacher but he showed me that a great dish is good, a great dish is “astronomical” with the right wine. Alan introduced me to Chuck Furuya, Master Sommelier and there was a great common thread, food and wine pairing. This amazing network was “the” springboard.
I later went on to become a manager at Tamura’s Fine Wine and Liquors, beverage manager for the Shack Waikiki, and later to be recruited to become the Assistant General Manager and Wine Director for BLT Steak, Waikiki. We received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for our wine list every year during my time with them. This position was the catalyst to launch me into a new international direction as the Brand Ambassador for Kenzo Estate winery. Working with Kenzo Tsujimoto, also owner of Capcom gaming company, I received first hand training from a true master of international branding. I was sent on an assignment to manage service at the Kenzo Estate tasting room in Roppongi Hills, Tokyo in 2014. It was an amazing experience to learn the practice of Omotenashi.
Currently, I am enjoying working with Chef Michael Mina, Patrick Yumul our President, Mark Politzer our Director of Operations, and our culinary director Ben Jenkins. We have a brand new, state of the art, beautiful restaurant being ran by an organization that is focused on the guest and quality top to bottom. I am very excited to go into service every day. We have an amazing Ohana that really leans into service and cares about our guests’ experiences. We have integrity about what we do, and this is why I am proud to be part of this team and why I work so hard to earn my spot with my guest and the Mina group every day. I am truly grateful to all of my mentors.
My current goal is to honor my guest with the best service and food and wine pairings. That is where the magic happens. When I have a guest say “Oh my God, this combination is amazing!” I know I did my job. My name is John and I am at your service.