Cuisine, Interviews, Travel

TG in Tokyo!

Who is TG? And why is she in Tokyo? Well…

When I first met her, she wasn’t Mbithe, she was TG and TG had a blog which she named ‘TG in Tokyo’. She had a nice new ‘fro and a pocket full of dreams which she blogged about in addition to her journey from Kenya to Japan.

Mbithe left for Japan this past Tuesday for a 2 week International Exchange program with 60(?) other participants from around the world and we are very excited for her because TG has finally gone to Tokyo! See what I did there? 😀 Before she left, Shikow and I along with a few other close friends of Mbithe planned a going away ‘party’ for her. After talking to Chef Yuki of Cheka Japanese Izakaya, a few weeks earlier, we thought it best to treat her to a Japanese meal there as a sort of preparation for her trip. I’ll just leave these here to help you on your way to Cheka…

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After lunch, we spoke to Chef and co-owner of Cheka Japanese Izakaya, Chef Kyohei Fukui who told us more about Cheka. Here’s what he had to say:

The Wondercores: How do you know Chef Yuki?

Fukui-san: Yuki and I are high school friends, I was one year ahead of him in high-school but we managed to be friends and have been friends for more than 15 years now. In our early twenties, we talked about starting a business together, specifically a restaurant because while in university, we both had part-time jobs in the restaurant industry.

The Wondercores: Chef Yuki told us a little bit about how Cheka started. What’s your version of how Cheka came to be?

Fukui-san: After graduating from university, I went to New Zealand for work and soon after that I got a job in Vietnam which was ideal for me since I majored in Vietnamese in university. Yuki at that time was in Zambia as a JICA volunteer. And it is in Zambia that he started a car business with a Zambian friend of his where he would bring in cars to Zambia after which his Zambian friend would sell to the Zambia market. Shortly after that, he joined a car company which told him to open a branch in Mombasa. Before this, we were talking about opening a restaurant either in Zambia or Vietnam because we had ties to either country but upon Yuki moving to Kenya, we had a new candidate for our business, Kenya. In June last year, I came to Nairobi to investigate the market before starting the restaurant. We found that Kenya would be ideal for the following reasons:

  • Yuki was well versed with port clearance after working with the car company.
  • There would be no language barrier because Kenyans speak English.
  • The market was good because we estimated that people here can spend up to Ksh. 3000 for dinner.
  • Kenya has a coast from which we could get the fish from.
  • We would be able to import necessary items through the Mombasa port.

I then quit my job in Vietnam and moved here in September, last year. We found this location in December of last year. I had come to the salon here and found the then owner of this location and we struck a deal. This used to be a French restaurant previously but they relocated to Karen and we then took the space. At that time, Yuki was still working in Mombasa and he brought his carpenter friends from Japan to come and furnish the location. It was a 4 person and they completed the work in just 10 days. And they did all this that you can see here and also fixed up the garden because after the French restaurant relocated, they took everything.

The Wondercores: Where did you learn how to cook?

Fukui-san: I actually own a Chef’s license in Japan and I learnt how to cook when I was 18 years old and I did it for about 4 or 5 years as a part-time job while in university.

The Wondercores: What do you think of Kenya?

Fukui-san: I like Kenyans, you are a very kind and frank people and the weather here is very nice. There is much less humidity here than in Japan. In fact, right now it should be about 35 degrees there with high humidity. I also like Kenyan food, I like Ugali, chapati, definitely Nyama Choma and Kachumbari.

The Wondercores: Are you thinking of opening a second branch? Will there be any changes to the menu?

Fukui-san: We want to open a second branch in Westlands with our target being expatriates. It won’t be a restaurant like this but a stall in a food court where we’ll serve just some noodles and sushi. We are always making changes to our menu but we do have plans of expanding it in future.

Check out Cheka Restaurant and let us know how the Cheka experience was for you. In the meantime, join us in wishing Mbithe a safe and fun-filled trip in Japan and you can catch up with her on her trip by following her on Instagram. 😀

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