Home cooking is the most essential cooking.  


Hello, my name is Sonoko Sakai and welcome to my site! I am a writer, teacher and cook based in California, but the essence of my very being is rooted in my Japanese heritage. My cooking reflects my rich cultural upbringing as I lived in many places as a child. I was born in New York and moved to many cities including San Francisco, Kamakura, Mexico City, and Tokyo.

The five keys to my cooking philosophy are freshness, seasonality, simplicity, beauty, and economy. At its most fundamental level, my philosophy is about respecting the ingredients and letting their natural flavor come through. Your ingredients should be as fresh and seasonal as possible. Relatedly, let the ingredients speak for themselves! I prefer not to fuss too much with the food. A fresh fish, simply salted and grilled over charcoal, is what I consider a beautiful meal.


In my many years in the food industry, I have worked as a recipe developer, producer, creative director and cooking teacher/lecturer. I worked with Japanese government agencies Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) , Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) and Japanese External Trade Organization (JETRO) to promote Japanese food and culture around the world.

My stories and recipes have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Saveur, Lucky Peach, and  Zester daily.

My classrooms are constantly shifting and I’ve taught in many schools and institutions in and out of the country. In the USA, I’ve taught in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Chicago, New York, Vermont, Hawaii. I also received the honor of the role of guest instructor at King Arthur Flour Baking Schools in Washington and Vermont, Anson Mills, CUESA (Farmers Market at the Ferry Building in San Francisco), Culinary Institute of Charleston, Bread Lab at WSU, University of Southern California, UCLA, University of the South, T Project in Oakland, SHED (Healdsburg), San Francisco Cooking School, Japanese American National Museum, and other community centers and elementary schools in the country.

Apart from teaching, I’ve been on exciting culinary adventures, collaborating with chefs in various cities, including N/Naka, Sqirl, Elysian, Cofax, and Standard Hotel (Los Angeles), Bar Tartine (San Francisco), SHED  (Healdsburg), Google HQ (Mountain View) and Lark (Seattle).  I have also taught overseas in countries such as Japan, China, France, Mexico and Peru.


I am also a grain activist working towards building a healthy and sustainable economy by restoring heirloom varieties of grains and introducing modern varieties. In 2011, I received a seed grant from Anson Mills to start a grain hub in Southern California. This initiative— Tehachapi Grain Project is currently in its third year growing a variety of ancient grains and stirring a lot of excitement in the Los Angeles baking community.

Additionally, I conduct lessons at at the Bread Lab at WSU and the Grain School at University of Colorado and numerous other universities around the country. These activities not only help me connect with people but also localize the ingredients that I use to make noodles and other Japanese dishes.