Serving Up Culinary Diplomacy Through Collaboration (Summary) – 2014 Annual Conference

The following is a summary of the breakout session “Serving Up Culinary Diplomacy through Collaboration” at the 2014 U.S.-Japan Council Annual Conference on October 10, 2014.


  • Mr. Stephen Kagawa, President and CEO, The Pacific Bridge Companies (moderator)
  • Ms. Candice Kumai, Chef, Food Writer and TV Host
  • Mr. Masaki Ukai, Chairman of the Board, Ukai Co., Ltd.
  • Chef Roy Yamaguchi, Chef and Founder, Roy’s Restaurants
  • Ms. Reiko Yoshikawa, CEO, Wishbone Tokyo

Moderated by Mr. Stephen Kagawa, “Serving Up Culinary Diplomacy through Collaboration” began with a fast-paced, energetic video that showed the preparation that occurred before the Culinary Festival. The video featured the chefs and people who were involved in making this Culinary Festival happen and provided insight into the three-month-long collaboration and cross-cultural dialogue that took place behind the scenes. The Culinary Festival was the closing reception for the 2014 USJC Annual Conference and served mouthwatering cuisines from twelve chefs from Hawaii and Japan. The reception was held at the Great Lawn of the Hilton Hawaiian Village which provided views of the ocean, beautiful sunset and fireworks.

The panelists who participated in the breakout session were Ms. Candice Kumai, Ms. Reiko Yoshikawa, Chef Roy Yamaguchi and Mr. Masaki Ukai (who spoke through an interpreter). During the session, the panelists discussed the differences in cooking culture and styles between American and Japanese chefs. Ms. Yoshikawa, who had served as a mediator and communicator between the groups of chefs, explained that Hawaiian chefs are very laid back. Japanese chefs are very precise, and they had weighed every gram, checked every bowl/plate in which the food will be served, and had detailed recipes for their dish.

As the chefs worked together over the three months, they learned to respect each other’s styles. Chef Yamaguchi was impressed with the care that Japanese chefs took for the people they serve. “Japanese chefs have pride, respect and passion,” he said. “Everything is detailed so guests can have the best they can ever have.” Mr. Ukai shared that one thing he learned from Mr. Kagawa was that he needed to overcome the frustration he felt from different working styles in order to truly participate in culinary diplomacy.

The panelists agreed that some of the best concoctions are born from collaborations between cultures, such as spam musubi and furikake popcorn, and the objective of culinary diplomacy is to learn about each other’s cultures and to strengthen people-to-people relations through their passion of food.

Click here to learn more about the 2014 Annual Conference.