59: Nobuo Fukuda

Categories: Chow Bella

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From now 'til we publish the 2012 edition of Best of Phoenix, New Times and Chow Bella present 100 Tastemakers -- Valley residents who make the cut in our culinary scene. Some you'll know; for others, it'll be a first introduction (but likely not the last). While you're here, check out our 100 Creatives on Jackalope Ranch.

Today: a chef who's come a long way from Benihana.

Tastemaker 59: Nobuo Fukuda

Born and raised in Tokyo, Nobuo Fukuda has lived and worked in Phoenix as a chef for 30 years. He has gone from working the teppanyaki tables at Benihana in the early '80s to his current position as chef/owner of Nobuo at Teeter House. While at his previous restaurant, Sea Saw, Nobuo earned the recognition as one of Food + Wine magazine's 10 Best New Chefs in the United States and was the recipient of a James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southwest. In 2010, with his partner, JNK Concepts, he opened Nobuo at Teeter House in downtown Phoenix's historic Heritage Square featuring an izakaya tapas-style menu using seasonal, local ingredients.

I arrived in Phoenix with... $400 cash, no English, and the desire to start a new life in America.

If I was sitting down to dinner for six, my five dream dining companions would be...

Zeyami -- one of the creators of noh, an ancient Japanese form of storytelling that incorporates percussion and flute, vocals and movement. I grew up with noh -- my mother is a noh performer and teacher. There are things I didn't understand about noh when I was little, like the concept of using small objects in a small space to make the audience use its imagination to understand the larger themes of life.I would love to be able to talk to Zeyami to understand how he came up with these concepts.

Neil Armstrong -- When I was little, I went to the World's Fair in Osaka, and the American exhibition had a moon rock that I found to be a fascinating symbol of the possibility of traveling a great distance. Seeing that made me think about coming to the United States.

Bruce Lee -- Every kid has a superhero they admire, like Batman or Spider-Man. For me, it was Bruce Lee.

Rocky Aoki, the founder of Benihana -- My first job in Phoenix was at Benihana, which enabled me to stay in the United States. I admire him because he was the first Japanese restaurateur to make a name for himself here in America.

Paul Radovic, my father-in-law, who I never met, as he passed away before I married my wife. He sounded like an interesting man I would have liked getting to know.

One place everyone who comes to Phoenix must eat is... Binkley's

One menu item this city could do without is... spicy tuna rolls -- usually these are made very spicy with ingredients that mask the delicate flavor of the fish. Japanese cooking is about highlighting the purity of good ingredients.

My last meal in Phoenix would be... I don't get to sit down to dinner with my family most nights, because I'm working. So, being with the family eating simply prepared local ingredients from Dave Jordan's and Bob McClendon's farms would be perfect.

The Tastemakers so far:
100: Tracy Dempsey
99: Craig DeMarco
98: Lara Mulchay
97: M.J. Coe
96: Betty Alatorre de Hong
95: Eric Schaefer
94: Hanna Gabrielsson
93: Shinji Kurita
92: Silvana Salcido Esparza
91: Mike Pitt
90: Christina Barrueta
89: Christopher Gross
88: Jan Wichayanuparp and Helen Yung
87: DJ Fernandes
86: Cullen Campbell
85: Chris Lee
84. Gwen Ashley Walters
83: Tony Morales
82: Lylah Ledner
81: Andrea White
80: Lori Hashimoto
79. Mrs. White
78: Eugenia Theodosopolous
77: Lou & Lovey Borenstein
76: Anthony Patafio
75: Carl Seacat
74: Sacha Levine
73: Sharon Salomon
72: Johnny Chu
71: Susie Timm
70: Jason Silberschlag
69: Gina Miller
68: Cindy Gentry
67: Amy Binkley
66: Dave Anderson
65: Mark Tarbell
64: Marianne Belardi
63: Audrey Lasalle
62: Brandon Gauthier
61: Brad and Kat Moore
60: Denise Clayton

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Location Info

Nobuo at Teeter House

622 E. Adams St., Phoenix, AZ

Category: Restaurant

Binkley's Restaurant

6920 E. Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek, AZ

Category: Restaurant

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