Get to Know: Mikuni Restaurant Chief Dreaming Officer Taro Arai
Mikuni Restaurant Group CDO (Chief Dreaming Officer) Taro Arai grew up on a small island in southern Japan and was often bullied for his refusal to conform. Once, he shaved a strip of hair down the center of his scalp. “I had a reverse mohawk,” he says, adding with a laugh, “I got into trouble for that.” His role model growing up was his father, a pastor, who—despite their family’s limited income—regularly fed up to 15 people in need out of their kitchen.
When Arai was 16, his family moved to California and opened a Japanese restaurant. They had no prior experience, and the early days were a struggle, much of which is documented in his memoir Abundance: Finding the American Dream in a Japanese Kitchen. He became a self-taught sushi chef, and his flair for experimentation eventually helped make Mikuni a success. On May 9, the group is hosting its 30th anniversary party, of which a portion of proceeds will go to 3Strands Global, UC Davis Children’s Hospital, and Cosumnes Oaks High School’s Culinary Arts Academy.
Indeed, Arai has continued to follow in his father’s footsteps. Through the annual Mikuni Summer Golf Classic, the Mikuni Charitable Foundation has raised tens of thousands of dollars for local and national nonprofits, including over a million dollars for breast cancer awareness. And these days, even when Arai shaves his head, he does so for a cause—most recently to raise money for childhood cancer research. “My dad always says, ‘be humble, give back to God, and give back to the community,’” he shares. “I believe we’re here for that reason.”
—Amber Foster // Photos by Dante Fontana © Style Media Group
Q & A
What comes to you naturally?
Biggest life inspirations? My parents who set the tone for my life; Jesus.
What are you most proud of?
My team and my family.
Best words of wisdom you’ve received?
“You do your best and God will do the rest.”
Being the world’s best grandpa!
Golden 1 Center
My surprise birthday party
The Shawshank Redemption
Mikuni Charitable Foundation
“Let’s keep Kaizen-ing.”
MAY 9 | MIKUNI 30TH ANNIVERSARY SHUKU (CELEBRATION) PARTY
From 6:30-9:30 p.m. at the McClellan Conference Center, enjoy food from Mikuni and Paul Martin’s American Grill, a hosted bar, live entertainment, and a Mikuni Ford Fusion giveaway. To purchase tickets and for more info, visit mikunisushi.com/events.