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. 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 - director of culinary operations
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!
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 - ramen 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)!
ryan mcmullen - executive chef
Oregonian born and raised, Ryan has excelled his passion for food in his culinary career. Spending time in the kitchen with his Mother and Grandfather as a child propelled him to take the culinary arts as his career path. With 20 years in the industry his love of Japanese food landed him here at Afuri where he can let his talents shine. With his knowledge of northwest ingredients and background of Japanese cuisine the two are able to come together in a harmonious way here at Afuri with the seasonal changing menus. He has a strong connection of community and brings that to the table here. " I feel at home here, the family mindset with this restaurant/company is like none I have experienced in the past" On his time away from work Ryan enjoys surfing, traveling, foraging and most importantly spending time with family.
jennifer underwood - general manager
Jennifer Underwood has been in the hospitality industry for over 15 years, from the east coast to the west coast. Her love for the industry began while achieving her B.A. degree from North Carolina State University working as a part-time server at a popular restaurant in Raleigh, NC. The family-like team effort and guest interactions the restaurant environment offers answered a calling for Jennifer.
"Hospitality is my passion. It is rare to work in a setting where you have multiple opportunities to make a complete stranger's day, everyday." She continued growing with the Mellow Mushroom franchise group until eventually becoming a Multi-Unit General Manager with them in the coastal town of Wilmington, NC. In an effort to expand her horizons and grow her career she moved to Portland, Oregon in January of 2017, finding her home with Afuri in February of 2019. "The hospitality and attention to detail involved in Japanese cuisine and culture truly set hospitality standards. Every decision is made with purpose, the purpose of providing not just an incredible meal, but an unforgettable experience as well." On her days off Jennifer can be found hiking with her Weimaraner, Falcor, or catching rays on her paddle board.
Marti Bell - Assistant General Manager
Marti Bell was Born and raised In a small town in Louisiana where she was first introduced to the restaurant industry at the age of 17. She moved to Oregon in 2011 where she earned a degree in hospitality and tourism management and where she fell in love with the beautiful mountains of the Pacific northwest. The fast pace and the opportunity to serve guests as they celebrate the special moments of the their lives has created in her a passion for service. Bringing to the table a little Southern hospitality and dedication to fantastic service helps me create a truly memorable dining experience for all of our guests. Adventure has always been the core of her essence. In her free time you can find her hiking, climbing, and exploring the twisty mountain roads of the Cascades.
Liz Allan - project manager
Self described “Type A Creative,” Liz has a passion for food, photography, and all things organizational. Originally from Nashville, TN, Liz came all the way to Portland to attend Lewis & Clark College where she studied Rhetoric & Media Studies and Art. After graduating, she split her time between doing freelance photography for local newspaper Willamette Weekly and working in local restaurants. During her time freelancing she soon discovered that she could combine her passions for photography and food into one!
Liz joined the Afuri team because of her admiration for the food and the business. This admiration combined with a willingness to learn and take on new administrative challenges has lead her to the position of Project Manager for the company. When she isn't working on projects behind the scenes, Liz can be found watching movies with her dog or exploring new restaurants around town.
brian lucas - BAR MANAGER
Brian is a born and raised Oregonian and has been in Portland for over 10 years. Like many restaurant professionals, he started as a busser and worked his way up. Brian has been behind the bar for 7 years, and there, he discovered a love for cocktails. Stirred, shaken, classic, and weird, Brian loves drinks of all spirits and style. His favorite part about bartending is creating drinks that are different, yet familiar. "There's something indescribable when all the ingredients create harmony in a glass." He has a love of finding old classics and sharing them with his guests. Whether you're a seasoned drinker or new, there is always something to learn. When not behind the bar at Afuri you can find Brian cheering on his beloved Blazers or exploring the vastness of Central and Eastern Oregon with his beautiful wife, Casey. Cheers!
Sam saltos - sous chef
Sam Saltos, Is the former co-owner of Zilla Sake, a traditional sushi bar in Northeast Portland. Saltos was classically trained at New York's Culinary Institute of America. Prior to Zilla, he worked at New York's Morimoto and the now two-Michelin-starred Acadia in Chicago; in 2011, he staged at Noma in Copenhagen, considered by many to have been the world's best restaurant. Here in his hometown, Saltos previously served as lead sushi chef at Portland's Departure under Gregory Gourdet, with whom he won the 2012 Great American Seafood Cook-off in New Orleans—the first non-Gulf state to ever win this national competition. In 2016 Sam completed certification and coursework from world-renowned sake expert John Gauntner. I love Japanese food and culture. I am hoping to continue to grow and use my experience push myself and Afuri to the next level.
chris bogart - sous chef
Chris first discovered a love of Asian cooking growing up in his fathers kitchens. He worked in every position at "A single pebble" restaurant, a well loved Chinese restaurant in Vermont. He has lived in New York City and Minneapolis before landing in Portland. Since then he has been a part of the dining scene for the past ten years. He values great food and a fun productive team to work with. When he's not cooking he is probably collecting cleavers or working on a 90's Hip-Hop mixtape.
seiji Fujiki - junior sous chef
Since Seiji’s childhood, food has always been a centerpiece in life. Gatherings with his extended family congregated around cooking and eating. Growing up, his mother owned a cake shop, and he spent many afternoons after school either playing in a kitchen, or watching his mother cook. Seiji began cooking professionally at the age of 18, and for him, the act of preparing food is how he connects with his familial and cultural identity, especially his Japanese heritage. When he’s not working, Seiji likes biking, going on hikes, and hanging out with his pups.