Philadelphia, PA - Born in California but raised in Japan, Kevin Yanaga started professional cooking in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture. Though his home city sits on Tokyo Bay, a short distance south from the bustling capital, the longtime sushi chef found his earliest work in kitchens, manning the burners in a series of Izakayas, or casual pubs
About Chef Kevin Yanaga
Long fascinated by the artform, Yanaga logged his first real experience preparing sushi back in the States as the executive chef of Naked Fish in Salt Lake City, Utah. In addition to immersing himself in the nuances of preparation and sourcing, Yanaga also fell in love with the sushi bar's high-pressure, interactive nature, solidifying his career path.
"You'll get direct feedback from your guest," he says. "You're always getting judged, finding out if people like your work, so you have to have so much discipline. It motivates you to be your best."
In 2009, Yanaga relocated to Philadelphia to grow his raw-fish repertoire, starting at STARR's flagship Morimoto before becoming the head chef at Hiroyuki Tanaka's Zama, in Philly's Rittenhouse Square.
This position allowed him to develop his own style in the context of sushi, marrying local ingredients and Western culinary techniques with traditional Japanese touches via omakase, multi-course tasting menus that showcased his original voice.
Next up for Yanaga was a run behind the eight-seat sushi bar at Izakaya, chef Michael Schulson's Japanese restaurant in the Borgata Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. Success here led to Schulson installing Yagana as the main sushi draw at Philadelphia's Double Knot.
Back with the STARR family as of 2018, Yanaga brings talent, precision, and creativity to University City's Pod as the restaurant's executive chef.
Serving Philadelphia since 2000, the long-running favorite is in the process of evolving physically and conceptually to accommodate contemporary tastes. Driven by his personal philosophies of culinary fluidity and sustainable sourcing, Yanaga bolsters Pod's reputation in a restaurant scene that's ever-changing.