Blaise and DJ Aki of The Sushi Room Take Father-Son Bonding to a Whole New Level
Blaise and DJ Aki
Courtesy of Blaise Aki DJ Aki (left) with his father Blaise Aki (right)
The Sushi Room
A restaurant called The Sushi Room in Chandler probably isn't where you'd expect to find some of the city's most authentic Hawaiian cuisine. But thanks to the restaurant's chef, Blaise Aki, this Japanese joint is turning out impressive versions of island-style eats in addition to sushi, Japanese specialties, and more. Aki's right-hand man is none other than his own 18-year-old son, DJ, and this week we sat down with the two to talk about how they ended up so far from the islands and the three things you have to eat when you go there. And don't forget to come back tomorrow to read part two.
There are a lot of things dads and sons typically share, be it time on couch, in the gym, or on the field. But no matter what your pop's interests are, it's safe to say that butchering fish and blow-torching rolls of sushi doesn't usually fall under the category of "typical father-son bonding."
Except that for Blaise and DJ Aki, it does.
The father-son duo spends afternoons after DJ gets out of school slinging sushi at The Sushi Room. Blaise, a culinary school grad who's been a resort executive chef and a caterer in the past, says his youngest son grew up around the restaurant business. He'd been helping his dad with prep work and catering gigs for years before he ever got behind the sushi bar at this Chandler restaurant.
"He was always my right-hand man," Blaine says.
And it's pretty clear he still is. Watching the two work together is the kind of thing that would make most people smile. Everything from their tones of voice to the subtlest hint of an eye roll oozes familiarity -- in a good way. They both know they've got a pretty sweet deal working together, even teenager DJ, a student at Scottsdale Community College.
"We don't get to hang out a lot at home," he says. "So it's nice."
It's extra sweet since spending more time with the family is part of the reason Blaise ended up in this business at all. Years ago, while still living in Hawaii, he was working two (at times, three) jobs to support his family. During the day, he'd work construction and at night, he'd cook. But with five kids and the extremely high cost of living on the islands, the situation was still far from ideal. In the end, Blaise and his wife decided he should pursue his real passion: cooking.
But to do so meant moving to the mainland.