Chef Jeff Osaka: Owner, 12 at Madison

Born in Los Angeles, where the food is as diverse as the city’s culture, Chef and visionary Jeff Osaka has always been fascinated by the restaurant industry and has garnered praise from critics and peers alike for his indelible contributions to the culinary world. Throughout his 25+ years of experience, Chef Osaka worked in the professional kitchens of Chefs Bradley Ogden at One Market, Wolfgang Puck at Chinois Las Vegas, Joachim Splichal of Patina, and Josiah Citrin's 2-Michelin Star restaurant Melisse. Osaka moved to Jackson Hole, WY where he, alongside friend and Wine Director Ken Fredrickson M.S., opened Restaurant Terroir in 1998 which was followed by Asian-influenced Koshu in 2000. Osaka has also worked as a  Private Chef, cooking for some of the most notable names in Hollywood (including the Steven Spielberg family) In November of 2008, Osaka brought his experience and passion to Denver, CO where he opened twelve, a restaurant intensely inspired by the changing seasons as the restaurant’s entire menu changed every month, or "twelve" times a year. By the time twelve closed in August 2014, Osaka had featured more than 70 different menus and 1,000 different dishes during the restaurant’s highly successful six-year reign.

In 2014, Chef Osaka received a James Beard Foundation Best Chef Southwest nomination. In 2015, Chef Osaka opened Osaka Ramen, his interpretation of a traditional ramen shop as well as Sushi-Rama, a conveyor-belt sushi concept, both located in the heart of the RiNo Arts District. In fall 2016, Osaka, alongside business partner Ken Wolf, introduced The Denver Central Market and later that year, Chef brought back his critically-acclaimed twelve concept with 12@Madison in the Congress Park neighborhood. In 2018, Sushi-Rama expanded with locations in DTC and Lone Tree, with Aurora and Denver International Airport locations anticipated by end of year.

My Goal of the day: How can I make my organization stronger each day by being an effective leader

My Thought of the day: How I improve personally each day, to leave a positive, lasting influence on others

My Action of the day: Work harder then yesterday.


What do you love most about Your City?

 I love how easy it is to interact with people. I’m from L.A. and you spend a great deal of time in your car, which makes it almost impossible to do anything. The weather comes in a close second, 300+ days of sunshine, you can’t beat it!

Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?

There are some great places here in Denver, but when I do eat breakfast I like to cook at home for my family. My wife doesn’t enjoy cooking as much as I do, but she does make some mean pancakes!

What are you doing at:

6:00 AM – checking emails, receiving stats from the entire restaurant group (sales, cover counts, etc), checking social media and daily news reports. Getting my 7-year old daughter ready for school, which is a challenge (so my struggle starts early! ha!)

10:00 AM – Already a couple hours into my workday, I’ve checked in with in my Director of Operations, start making my rounds at Osaka Ramen, Sushi-Rama(s) and The Denver Central Market. Impromptu/scheduled meetings about the entire group. Constantly checking emails throughout the day; I don’t get an excessive amount, maybe 70-80 or so, but if I don’t stay on top it gets out of hand.

12:00 PM - Favorite Power Lunch spot/meal?

If I do have lunch, it’s a something quick at Osaka Ramen or a couple plates off the conveyor belt at Sushi-Rama…For a formal business lunch it’s at Hillstone, you always know what to expect, and they happen to have a killer french dip!

7:00 PM -  On the line at one of my restaurants, usually 12@MADISON, the energy in the dining room is great any day of the week which makes all the hard work so rewarding.

11:00 PM – Winding my evening down at one of my restaurants, thinking about the next day on my drive home. I try to hit the pillow by 1am, but it takes me a while to decompress after a long day.

What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?

I love coffee at all times of the day, even before bed, it’s very comforting to me. In between all the coffee is Pellegrino, it’s carbonated more than most sparkling waters, and keeps me from drinking soda.

Most used App/Favorite Instagram Account?

I look over Facebook and Instagram daily. One of my favorites is the James Beard Foundation Facebook or Instagram pages, they have fun things on cooking, recipes, other Chefs, but more importantly highlight some of the issues that are important to me like food policy, equality, and sustainability.

What should everyone try at least once?

When it comes to food, I say try EVERYTHING! Venture out of your comfort zone, life will pass you by if you pass on everything.

Where do you enjoy getting lost?

When I do have some free time to myself, which is a luxury these days, I like to take a drive and find any winding road where I can go as fast as I can (observing the local laws of course!)