Takashi and Kathy Yagihashi Takashi’s and Slurping Turtle Chicago

Takashi Yagihashi is a busy chef—really busy.

The owner of Takashi’s and the new, very popular Slurping Turtle is not only running two restaurants, he’s becoming a  frequent personality on televised cooking competition shows. Top Chef has featured him as a guest judge and mentor, and on April 1 he went head-to-head in battle with Michael Symon on Food Network’s Iron Chef.

(About four lines of text to be filled in after the April 1 show. Also info on his “surprise” new show, which will begin in late June)

Along with all of those demands, when we met, he was about to return to Japan to buy a new noodle machine, and was taking two of the couple’s three teenage children with him.

“There’s no other like it in Chicago,” says Kathy Yagihashi, who is the operations manager for both restaurants. “Homemade noodles are part of Takashi’s dream for Slurping Turtle.”

“We serve authentic food that’s between restaurant food and street food,” he explains. And like the restaurants in Tokyo, which are his inspiration, he uses authentic ingredients, but in sophisticated combinations.

Neither Takashi nor Kathy went to culinary school. She majored in computer science and he in interior design. They both learned their vocations from the ground up. Takashi started as a dishwasher in high school, and worked his way up through the kitchens of both Japanese and French restaurants. (But he keeps his hand in the design of his restaurants, and even drew the original graphic for the Slurping Turtle logo.)

They met when a mutual friend—of course a chef—set them up. Then came moves to open restaurants in Detroit and briefly Las Vegas, but in the end, they came back to Chicago, settling in Park Ridge with their family.  First, they opened Takashi’s in Wicker Park, and when the noodle-based brunch there took off in popularity, they opened Slurping Turtle in River North.

What’s next?

Given the glowing reviews of Slurping Turtle and investors who are interested in opening new branches of the restaurant, the pace at the Yagihashi household will not slow down any time soon.