Reflections of a Restaurateur

Charles Celestial of Japonessa Sushi Cocina

An exclusive eskca interview with Charles Celestial (executive chef) of Japonessa Sushi Cocina, which was honored in our:
Tell us your origin story. How did you come to be involved with Japonessa Sushi Cocina?

At the age of 16, I started in the kitchen of a famous Philippines restaurant called Kinabuhayan Café. After 3 years of slowly building my reputation and technique, I made the decision to move to the United States. After pursuing culinary school, I landed the opportunity to hone my craft with renowned Japanese chef Masaharu Morimoto at Morimoto Napa. I was also fortunate enough to work with Ingi Son of Shota, a Michelin star chef in San Francisco, and Chef Kang Kuan, former Chef de Cuisine of The French Laundry and Executive Chef at Morimoto.

I used to stage in restaurants showcasing my skills and technique, and at that time, Japonessa was looking for a chef who understood the deep principles of Japanese technique, but was also not too traditional. I grabbed the opportunity and that’s how I gained a position with Japonessa.

What were the biggest hurdles you encountered in your journey?

I believe every restaurant business can relate, but our biggest struggle was when COVID happened. We had to temporarily close for the pandemic. It was one of the most challenging experiences I have had in this industry.

What does the future hold for you and Japonessa Sushi Cocina?

I’m deeply humbled by how resilient our whole team here, in both locations of Japonessa, despite the many challenges the business has been through. I’m confident that we will continue to thrive and grow around the Pacific Northwest.

What are your thoughts on the food scene in Seattle?

Seattle is an awesome city because it gives us so many options for quality seafood. There are so many people moving here from all around the world and I can’t wait until new concepts of restaurants open in the area.

What’s your best advice for aspiring restaurateurs?

Never be afraid of doing what you’re passionate about. Put your heart into it with faith and dedication. No matter how far you go, be humble and kind.

Our readers love recommendations! What’s your favorite item at Japonessa Sushi Cocina?

The Emperor roll and Super Bad Boy rolls are just a few guest favorites, but if you want to be surprised and experience Japonessa to the next level, get the Chef’s choice Omakase.


For more exclusive interviews, see our full Reflections of a Restaurateur series