Always having a mind of his own, Xiaoteng (X) never wanted to live a stereotypical life. After graduating from Cornell University with a business degree, he worked at Fortune 100 companies such as Target, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and IBM. But at the end of the day, he always dreamed about carving out a path of his own. A life-long foodie, he has always found comfort in local ethnic restaurants wherever he lived, but the lack of authentic, affordable options frustrated him. In 2014, he quit his corporate career to pursue his entrepreneurial dream and started working at Chipotle and Noodles & Company to truly learn the grunt work of the restaurant life, while conceptualizing a brand that can revolutionize the food industry.
John’s love of sushi is life-long, blossoming in Osaka and Kyoto, Japan. A Japanese-raised, second-generation, professionally trained sushi chef, he has witnessed the loss of authenticity in Japanese cuisine over the years. After graduating from the prestigious Sushi Institute of America, he was passionate to share the true art and tradition of sushi with others. A protégé of Master Sushi Chef Katsuya, John worked at Katsuya’s renowned California restaurants before returning to Minnesota, where he has taught culinary classes and acted as the private chef for over 5,000 guests across the country using his multi-generational recipes. Eating John’s sushi is like eating in his grandmother’s kitchen circa 1925 in Kumamoto, Japan, an authentic experience that is one-of-a-kind.
X and John met in the summer of 2014 in a sushi class. Their shared passion for authentic Japanese got them talking: "Why do people have to go to fancy sit-down restaurants to enjoy high quality sushi? Why do people have to sacrifice speed and money for authentic Japanese food? Why are there no options in the middle?" With these questions in mind, they created a brand new restaurant concept, and PinKU Japanese Street Food was born.