Keiko Aoki, is the founder of Altesse, a New York consultancy firm, and the owner of an eponymous U.S. catering company that specializes in Japanese home cooking. Bitten by the business bug from the minute she flew to the Big Apple in 1985, Aoki’s itch to succeed kept her working during most of the ’80s and ’90s. Although she started from scratch, by the mid-’90s her company had swelled into a $15 million-a-year business. Aoki brought the Wonderbra to Japan, developed products with German pharmaceutical giant Bayer, and advised the Spanish government on the Balearic Islands. Single and successful, it wasn’t until 2000 that Keiko finally met her perfect match in Rocky Aoki, the founder of the Benihana restaurant empire, and the two cooked up a storm until Rocky’s death in 2008.
If it’s Japanese and smells funny, it’s probably good for you. The Japanese diet is the best: It includes lots of enzymes from soy sauce, miso and natto (fermented soybeans), which are all very healthy.
If you want to take a seat at the table, first you need be able to stand on your own two feet. When I was in my 20s, I walked down Fifth Avenue for the first time. As I set my eyes on the gorgeous facade of the Olympic Tower, I knew that’s where I’d have my office and home. I used $300 to establish my company and began peddling bags and jewelry. I was on my way to the top, the only question was how long it would take me to get there.
When “Let’s go out!” turns into “Let’s stay in!”, you know you’re a happy couple. Before I met Rocky, I wasn’t a big cook. We both had the same lifestyle, eating out and socializing. But once we were together, staying at home gave us both such a nice feeling. We ate a simple meal, watched TV and lounged on the sofa. Home is where the cooking is, I thought.
Cooking transforms not just the ingredients but people, too. Rocky was a huge playboy but thanks to home cooking, he became a homebody. And I turned into a housewife: I cooked almost every day, and realized that I loved it.