Breaking Bao NYC: Maiko Kyogoku & Chef Emily Yuen – BESSOU

Breaking Bao NYC: Maiko Kyogoku & Chef Emily Yuen – BESSOU

Owner Maiko Kyogoku and Executive Chef Emily Yuen became friends in 2013 while honing their skills at Boulud Sud. Yuen served as Sous Chef at Boulud Sud after three years as Executive Sous Chef at DB Bistro in Singapore and stints at La Gavroche in London and Vue de Monde in Australia. Kyogoku served as Director of Private Dining for Bar Boulud and Boulud Sud. Kyogoku’s taste and love of Japanese food developed from an early age cooking with her mother and chef father. Bessou—which means holiday home in Japanese—opened its doors in New York City’s NoHo neighborhood in August 2016 and features modern Japanese dishes inspired by Kyogoku’s family’s meals.

Please share a personal intergenerational food story 

My family didn’t do that many family vacations, or outings to different places. To spend time together and to really show each other our love for one another, we cooked together, fed one another, and shared meals. Dad being a former restaurant owner and sushi chef, and mom being a wonderful home cook, meals were often a whole day affair, involved and laborious, especially on weekends when my dad was home after a long week of being busy at the restaurant. My favorite memories are of my dad filleting fish making some amazing sashimi platter- if it were hirami usuzukuri or thin-sliced fluke, I often gobbled up half of it before it even got to the dinner table-, mom preparing a hotpot of crab legs and more fish, my sister washing and cooking the rice and me grating a long daikon radish and ginger for accoutrements. Whenever I eat a hotpot or a fluke sashimi platter, my mind takes me back to those Sunday nights when we were all happy in the kitchen making our family meal.

What does being a part of the LUCKYRICE Feast signify to you?

The Luckyrice Feast is a great way to honor our heritage, where we came from and the food we grew up with. We’re so happy to be a part of it!

What do you think of the Asian food moment right now?

Asian food is really having its moment right now. Food is one of the first areas where you begin to see cultural norms shifting and it really seems like slowly but surely, Asian food is being accepted as part of everyday American fare. Beyond Panda Express or Bubble Tea shops in Chinatown, you are beginning to see sushi at Duane Reade and dumplings at your local supermarket. This is huge! It’s a small but tremendous step in Asian food and  to a larger extent, people, being seen as part of the larger fabric of American culture.  There is also a definite interest in more specialized, regional and nuanced Asian foods. Chinese food is no longer lumped into one type of general cuisine, and neither is Japanese. People are interested in Japanese food beyond sushi and ramen. I don’t think that there was a more appropriate time for Bessou to open and introduce Japanese comfort food to New York.