Nobuyuki Matsuhisa – known to the world simply as “Nobu” – is the acclaimed and highly influential chef proprietor of Nobu and Matsuhisa restaurants located across five continents.
Born and raised in Saitama, Japan, Nobu served a rigorous apprenticeship at a respected sushi bar in Tokyo. It was not long before his dreams of seeing the world moved him to open a sushi bar in Peru. A classically trained sushi-chef, Nobu was challenged by the new culture and regional ingredients, which kindled his inventive style, known today as Nobu Style. After three years in Peru, Nobu moved to Argentina, then home to Japan, then on to Alaska, before finally settling in Los Angeles. Nobu opened his first restaurant in the United States, Matsuhisa in Beverly Hills, California, in January 1987. Matsuhisa was an instant success and became a magnet for food lovers and celebrities alike. It was here that his longtime friendship and business relationship with actor and director Robert De Niro began. It was at De Niro’s urging that together they opened the very first Nobu in New York City in 1994 with restaurateur Drew Nieporent. Like Matsuhisa, Nobu was an instant hit.
With such a magnificent collection of restaurants, it is no wonder that Nobu’s restaurants have been so widely honored. Notable citations bestowed upon Nobu’s restaurants start with Matsuhisa chosen as one of the Top Ten Restaurant Destinations in the world by the New York Times (1993); Nobu awarded Best New Restaurant by the James Beard Foundation (1995) and Three Stars by Ruth Reichl of the New York Times (1995); Nobu Next Door awarded Three Stars by Ruth Reichl of the New York Times (1998); Nobu London awarded One Michelin Star (1997); Nobu Fifty Seven awarded Three Stars by Frank Bruni of the New York Times (2005); Nobu Berkeley St. awarded One Michelin Star (2005); Matsuhisa Beverly Hills and Nobu Las Vegas awarded One Michelin Stars (2007); Nobu San Diego awarded One Michelin Star (2008).
How did you get into the restaurant industry?
My brother took me to my first sushi restaurant as a boy and the experience resonated with me. After I graduated high school, I started as a sushi apprentice at Matsuei, a sushi restaurant in Shinjuku, Tokyo.
What are the most popular dishes at Nobu and which is your personal favorite?
The Black Cod Miso, Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno, Rock Shrimp Tempura, and New Style Sashimi are a few of our signature dishes. Like any parent, I don’t have a favorite!
(Black Cod Miso)
How do you stay successful within such a volatile and competitive industry?
Communication is key. I have a team of chefs all over the world and we learn from each other. I travel all year to my restaurants to ensure quality control, while trying new ingredients from the different countries.
(Nobu Berkeley Street)
How important does the design/architecture of your restaurant play into its success?
I’ve been fortunate to have partnered with talented architects throughout the years. To me, a good restaurant should have good food, good service, and good atmosphere. When a guest has all three of those things, they should always leave satisfied.
What is your life motto?
“Cook from the heart”. You have to put your passion into your vision and dreams, whether it is cooking, music, architecture, or politics.
How important is location in selecting the creation of a new restaurant?
It’s important to me to have good partnerships. You have to work together and understand each other so I need the people who work with me to have the same kind of passion and drive as I do.
(Nobu Monte Carlo)
What is your go-to travel destination and why?
I travel ten months out of the year, so for me, going to my home in Japan is always my preferred destination.
What's next for the Nobu?
We are doing Nobu Hotels now. The Nobu Hotel in Las Vegas Caesars Palace was the first and they’ve had tremendous success. We are looking forward to openings in Riyadh, London, Bahrain, and Manila in the near future.
Nobu, the world renowned Japanese restaurant recognized for pioneering a New-style Japanese cuisine, started as a business partnership in 1994 between Chef Nobu Matsuhisa and his partners: actor Robert De Niro, producer Meir Teper, and restaurateur Drew Nieporent. Originating in New York as the flagship restaurant, the Nobu brand is now an empire that spans across five continents, with international locations in London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, Milan, The Bahamas, Melbourne, Dubai, Cape Town, Moscow, Mexico City, Budapest, Perth, Monte Carlo, and national locations in Las Vegas, Malibu, Miami Beach, Dallas, San Diego, Los Angeles, Waikiki, and Lanai. The global Nobu enterprise has recently expanded to include the first Nobu Hotel in Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, with anticipation for an exciting line of luxury hotels to follow.
Nobu restaurants, simultaneously a visual and culinary delight, continue to receive unprecedented praise and rave reviews from publications such as the New York Times, the Zagat Surveys, and the Michelin Guides. The restaurants' popularity and devoted following are a tribute to Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s innovation in traditional Japanese
Some of Nobu’s personal honors from the culinary community include America’s 10 Best New Chefs by Food and Wine Magazine (1989), Southern California's Rising Stars by Los Angeles Times Magazine (1998), induction into Who's Who of Food and Beverage in America by the James Beard Foundation (2002), nomination for Outstanding Chef by the James Beard Foundation (1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006), and One of the 11 Most Influential Chefs of the Decade by Madrid Fusion (2009).
Nobu currently has 32 restaurants in 28 different cities around the world, spanning across five continents.