Photo via AG Jeans
Niki Nikayama is the founder of Los Angeles kaiseki restaurant n/naka. Kaiseki could be categorized as a more elaborate take on sushi and, traditionally, women in Japanese culture are not taught the art of either kaiseki or sushi. So Nikayam would be notable just for being a female chef in this category, but the level of her success makes her a hero for any girl or woman with dreams of breaking that barrier. The restaurant’s reservations are consistently fully booked three months in advance in one minute flat.
She tells AG:
I felt that there was a difference between what I was taught and what my brother was taught in that we are a traditional Asian family. I think in Asian families it’s natural to put a lot of hope and dreams onto the men in the family. I felt that it was kind of strange to have this message inside the house and then to be outside and have a different message. But of course, I gravitated more toward the message outside, and that’s the wonderful thing about having different cultures: You get to choose what you love about each culture and bring it into your life and decide where you want to go from there. There’s a choice.
Nikayama hires a mostly-female staff, and says she thoroughly enjoys being a woman.
In all honesty, I really like being a woman. I think it’s one of the most enjoyable experiences in life because there are challenges that women have to get through and I think any challenge that comes up in our lives is an opportunity to ask us to be better. So, I embrace it.
The profile is part of AG’s “More Than My Appearance” series of interviews asking women how their identities go beyond what they look like.