TAICHI ISHIZUKI - CEO
Taichi met the founder of AFURI, Hiroto Nakamura, back in 2011. At that time, Taichi was CEO of a Japanese restaurant group in California. Having waited for the right moment and partner to expand his restaurant, Taichi was eager to team up with Hiroto to open AFURI's first US location. Together, in September of 2016 they proudly opened AFURI's first US location in Portland, Oregon, chosen for the similarities in water quality and molecular structure which would allow them to replicate the same authentic taste of the ramen served in AFURI's shops in Tokyo. Today, there are two AFURI's in Portland and a newly opened location in Lisbon, Portugal--AFURI's first restaurant in Europe. Portugal's access to plentiful and beautiful ingredients present a wonderful opportunity for AFURI to challenge their chefs and transform the ramen in Lisbon, introducing AFURI and Japanese culture to yet another part of the world.
Passionate about building community and sharing culture through Japanese cuisine, Taichi's mission is to "make the world better through ramen". Intent on providing a meaningful and traditional Japanese meal in lieu of "instant" ramen, Taichi continues to pursue opportunities with those who know that something as simple as sharing a bowl of ramen can connect people across the world. AFURI is a direct result of these values--dedicated to bringing joy and learning to its guests alongside a delicious meal.
Outside of AFURI, Taichi and his wife have made a lifelong home in Portland and recently welcomed the birth of their first son, Lennon! Taichi loves playing with his son, camping, cooking, and travelling.
Many thanks. Obrigado. ありがとう
ERIN BUTTERWORTH - vice president
Erin has worked in restaurants for over 25 years. She earned a degree with honors in Restaurant Management from GA State University in Atlanta. Born on the west coast, she has come full circle to finding her permanent home in Portland. Erin is passionate about drink and food and the comfort that it brings people. From kitchen manager in Philly at an Italian restaurant to GM with Starr Restaurants, to Director of Hospitality with Bamboo Sushi she has found her home as GM of Afuri. Her hope is to help grow Japanese food culture in Portland. She is passionate about teaching her staff to be truly educated in Japanese cuisine, sake and service. Her biggest passion is raising her furr-family. Her pitbull lucy gets all of her free time. Visiting the coast, hanging out in the back yard, or enjoying a nice bottle of sake or whisky rye with friends.
YOJI HARADA - chef de cuisine
Yoji began learning to cook when he was 18 years old. He has over 20 years of traditional Japanese cuisine and sushi experience. Yoji grew up in Japan and moved to the USA in 2003. He’s worked in sushi restaurants all across the US. Yoji met Taichi while working in Los Angeles, and moved to the Pacific Northwest to join us at Afuri. His favorite part of being a chef is being able to interact with guests and share his love of food with them. When he is not working, Yoji enjoys fly fishing for trout, watching movies, and drinking sake or wine. His favorite ramen is our yuzu shio!
GRANT MACDONALD - EXECUTIVE CHEF
Grant has spent the last 17 years cooking and traveling in top kitchens throughout North America, from Michelin-starred Bouley in NYC, the multiple award-winning TRIO in Austin, TX, and the storied Biltmore Four Seasons Santa Barbara to name a few. Each new challenge was both a learning experience, but also an opportunity to share his passion for fresh ingredients, that provide a sense of place. “As a chef, for inspiration, I look to my local environment – the farms, ranches, waters, and orchards,” says Grant. “I like to see what’s coming out of the earth, and think about how to share that experience on a plate. Japanese cuisine has a particularly exquisite sense of time and place, that we share in Portland, and that is why AFURI is such a good fit here.” When he’s not building bowls of ramen, Grant can be found walking in the woods with his wife and kids, or cooking at home!
MEGAN GARRETT - assistant general manager
Megan grew up in the wilds of Columbia River Gorge. Daughter of a fisherman and Granddaughter of a farmer, she’s an natural proponent of farm to table ideals. Since moving to Portland in 2004 she’s shared that love of fresh, local flavors with some of this city’s finest culinary establishments. At Afuri she continues to champion the wonders of the Pacific Northwest with our guests and staff. When Megan isn't leading Afuri's front of house team, she enjoys spending her free time camping, hiking, making art, enjoying Portland's food and music scenes, and playing fetch with her kitten Edie!
Michael Huthmacher - Head Sushi Chef
Born and raised in Japan, Michael’s first venture into Sushi was visiting an Omakase with his Grandmother. His young mind was fascinated by the cuisine and its one of a kind presentation. He was immediately hooked and made that experience his benchmark for quality sushi - “That encounter resonates with me still. I work to perfect my craft in hopes of leaving the same unforgettable impression with our patrons!”
DENNIS CAVAZOS - kitchen manager
Dennis is passionate about Japanese cuisine. He joined Afuri because for him, it is exciting to see Americans rediscover ramen; it is a far cry from the packaged ramen most of us are familiar with. You've just gotta love how simple a bowl of ramen appears, but underneath that simplicity is a world of components; That's a beautiful thing. How the Ramen Masters figured out the harmonies he will one day wrap his head around. Until then...いただきます (let's eat)!
BILLY NOBLE - BAR MANAGER
Billy Noble is a nerd for booze. He contemplates flavor combinations in his dreams and, ever questing for new inventions, concocts drinks in his free time. This passion is complemented by a deeply rooted belief that fresh, seasonal, and local ingredients result in flavorful and aromatic culinary experiences in cocktails as well as food. Afuri is a good match for Billy’s interests as he has cultivated an appreciation for Japanese culture and cuisine since a childhood visit to Japan. When he’s not developing new recipes, Billy co-commands a small band of children with his wife, Brie.