Osamu (Sam) Okamoto, one of Vancouver's premier chefs and restaurateurs, has developed a unique approach to food—one that combines his vast knowledge of the health-giving aspects of food with traditional Japanese cooking techniques and Western-style cuisine. It's an approach that has earned him critical acclaim and kept him at the leading edge of the food and restaurant business in North America.
Originally trained as a French chef, Sam returned to his Asian roots several years ago while searching for an alternative to the typical North American diet, which is high in saturated fat and refined foods, and contains an excessive amount of animal protein. His research into fats and oils, additives, preservatives, and sugar irrevocably altered his direction in cooking.
“The more I studied, the more I understood the completeness of Asian food,'” he says. “The foods that I was accustomed to eating while I was growing up had a long history and wisdom to go with them. They were very simple, pleasant, tasty, and nutritious.”
Born and raised in Kita-Kyushu City, Japan, Sam trained as a French chef at the Hakata Imperial Hotel, which catered to Hakata's business community. Seeking to broaden his experience in the food and restaurant business, he moved to Canada in 1969. Settling first in Quebec, he continued his professional training at La Sapinière under renowned master chef Marcel Kretz. In 1972, Sam moved to Vancouver, where he has continued to expand his knowledge and experience in the areas of food creation, nutrition, and restaurant development. In addition to his culinary expertise, he has worked with restaurant owners and managers to revamp their menus to incorporate new recipes and cooking styles, and he has been involved in designing and building brand-new restaurants.
The list of restaurants he's been instrumental in developing is impressive: the Briar Avenue Restaurant, Christopher's (now the Bulldog Cafe), The Alma Street Cafe, and Hato Popo in Vancouver; the Dundarave Cafe in West Vancouver; Woodland's Atrium; and BistroIII in Palm Springs, California.
Sam's fresh approach to food and food preparation comes at a time when North American society is exploring new modes of healthy eating. With more than twenty-eight years in the food and restaurant industry, Sam's knowledge and experience is both timely and practical.
Sam Okamoto's Incredible Vegetables, to be published by Pelican in October, is Sam Okamoto's first book.