About Sonoko Sakai



I was born in New York, and raised in many places, including Tokyo, Kamakura, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Mexico City.  I am a food writer, author, Japanese cooking teacher, and producer based in Los Angeles.  I am also working on a project to revive heirloom grains in the Southern California region.  All these activities fall under my project – Common Grains, which aims to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for food and culture.  Within this mission, I advocate a sustainable and healthy lifestyle with grains and vegetables at the heart of a meal.

My cookbook, The Poetical Pursuit of Food: Japanese Recipes for American Cooks was published by Potter in 1982.

For more than 20 years, I worked in the film industry as a film buyer and consultant for major Japanese film distributors acquiring hundreds of films.  I produced “Blindness,”  – a film directed by Fernando Meireilles (City of God, Constant Gardner).  Currently, I am working on a  film about the  French chef Bernard Loiseau, which will be adapted from the non-fiction book titled, Life and Death in Haute Cuisine by Rudolph Chelminski.

I  have contributed articles to the Los Angeles Times food section for more than 10 years; my food stories, recipes and memoirs about food have also appeared in the Chicago tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Saveur, Zester Daily and Bungei Shunju (a Japanese literary magazine).

I’ve appeared on both local and national television programs and interviewed on radio programs, including KCRW’s Good Food and most recently on NPRs’ The World.

For the past few years, I have been involved in cultural and educational projects to promote Japanese food and culture and Japanese rice for Cool Japan -  a cultural project funded by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and other cultural projects funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF). I’ve done food events at Google headquarters, museums, community centers, farmers markets and trade shows in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Hawaii, Chicago, Paris and I am now getting ready to do a rice event in Hong Kong.

I have taught cooking classes and done pop up events at locations such as Cooks County, Cortez, Garden Foundation, Bread bar, USC, UCLA, JANM in Los Angeles, and at CUESA, the San Francisco Cooking School, JCCCNC, and Bar Tartine in San Francisco, and Shed in Sonoma, as well as at WSU Kneading Conferences in Mt. Vernon and Tacoma,  JCCCW, Lark, and the Pantry at Delancey, etc.  I also was invited by a Chicago based designer- Skyline Design to do a soba workshop for designers, architects, and chefs.

One of my passion projects is the Southern California Heritage Grain project.  With a seed grant from Anson Mills,  I am working with farmers in the Santa Barbara and Kern Counties, bakers and chefs to grow heirloom grains and create a sustainable community grain hub in this region.



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