I’ve been trying to get a hold of worldwide celeb chef Roy Yamaguchi to interview him for WIMR since about the time I started the column (November 2006). Finally last month–success! I got an e-mail from one of his handlers saying not that she was still working on it, but to be there that morning for a quick phone call. Good thing I checked my inbox.

The short version was published Sunday in the Honolulu Advertiser, and in an effort to be timely, I’ve included the entire interview below, giving a bit more insight into Roy’s dual interests in history and coaching. I thought he knew what he was in for when he got on the phone, but some hesitation in his answer to the first question, and continued answers to the first in response to my second left me wondering.

One disclaimer. I most often do my interviews by phone and type quickly. I’m fairly certain he said Roy’s has 240,000 staff members worldwide, which seems like a huge number–I even asked him to repeat it. Still, I’m human, and it could be 24,000. Anyone who wants to correct me, please do!

What I’m Reading | Roy Yamaguchi
Chef, Founder/Owner Roy’s Restaurants

Q&A with Christine Thomas

–What are you reading?

I don’t really finish things as anybody else would. What I’m reading now is Bushido, the Soul of Japan. It’s about the Japanese samurai, how the warriors were and how Japan today, their life and the way they think is probably derived from the old samurai and how they were. They were very determined loyal, respectful, and respectable.

–How did you discover it?

I’m not a typical person that goes out and gets books that people read. I do a lot of reading only to keep up with our restaurant industry. So I read a lot of magazines; that’s my number one. I read more magazines than books. So naturally I read articles that would probably help my situation or the restaurant’s situation, as it exists on a daily basis. I don’t read novels, I don’t read books other than those I feel will help me or help our team. So it’s books that are related to biographies or books that are in-depth about how people feel or how you make people feel, or about getting along—leadership, what makes a good leader, and what makes a good follower.

–How does Bushido, the Soul of Japan fit in?

I’m not finished with it and I don’t know how it’s going to work out, but you can take a look at the Japanese culture and how they work, and how they really take heart to loyalty, to respect and respecting the elders, really taking tare of their children and looking to the future. It makes me believe that reading a book about the Japanese culture or what Japan used to be like years and years ago, especially books about the feudal days how the samurai were men of honor—I’m not saying I’m going to find all the answers, but I enjoy reading a book like that over time, or something like the book I just finished, called “The Enlightened Partner Revisited.” That’s on how your mind and your consciousness and your thoughts work together.

–What do you like about it?

I was born and raised in Japan, brought up on an army base, and my father was born and raised on Maui. Our family history goes back 90 years in Hawai`i and of course a lot longer in Japan. To think about how my grandfather used to be, and how he used to work hard and was so determined—I go back and think about all those things as I read the book, as well as how the other book talks about … how we can make ourselves look at the world in a certain way and accept things.

–Is this kind of looking back and thinking about your roots essential as your company continues to grow?

Number one I think that especially in our company—we do have a pretty large company where we have about 240,000 staff members worldwide. So naturally as a team we have a certain culture that we have that’s made Roy’s what it is, almost 19 years from the day we started. So the culture of our company is just as important as our people. So naturally understanding how I am and how I act a certain way not through psychology but the means of what you read and some of the facts or reasoning you may find in a book may help me better understand how I act and how to make myself better.

The three last books that I’ve read are books that are related to how I can be a better reader and listen and interact with our staff and continue to make our brand grow. … I have to continually make our new staff members understand where we came from and why I did it this way. To me what’s really important is where I came from and why I do things. I’m not looking for a soul-searching deep answer, I’m just looking out to see in history why some things are done certain ways or why things are a certain way. … Happiness is one thought away.

Photo linked to Advertiser site, from their library. Mahalo!