Harold Fields’ business brings a taste of Japan to Seattle, WA!
Back in 2005, the chef and owner conceptualized Umami Kushi, a Japanese street food bakery. Fields’ passion for the cuisine was sparked after going to his wife’s hometown in Yokohama, Japan, due to a family emergency. The visit came right before Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, LA, where the wedded couple were living at the time.
Not being able to return for months, Fields found himself learning in depth about the country’s food and wanted to bring it back to the U.S. The perfect opportunity presented itself when a café owner in his neighborhood was seeking savory pastry options. In a short time after Fields started providing her café with okazu pan, bread with savory fillings, it became a hit and started selling out.
“I didn’t really realize until probably two years in that this was a business opportunity,” Fields told AfroTech. “I was just having some extra money in my pocket, and it wasn’t until people started asking me some serious questions like ‘What’s your schedule? What’s your delivery days?’ I had one lady literally grab me one day and was like, ‘Hey I’ve been waiting here for an hour for you.’”
The success led him to start selling the traditional Japanese pastries in six coffee shops. However, customers were unaware that he was the mastermind behind them. This ultimately motivated Fields to leverage people loving his food and create his own brand. After being denied on his first loan application, he persevered and started his dream business out of his own pockets.
In 2012, Umami Kushi secured its first brick-and-mortar. Now, it has two locations, takes online orders, and offers catering services. The menu consists of ozaku pan, yakitori, and beignets. With his offerings, Fields wanted to ensure that they were affordable for customers.
When it comes to Umami Kushi’s décor, it features original anime art with Black characters. The representation exemplifies Fields’ mission to blend Black and Japanese culture.
“I’m the only one I think in the U.S. that has this concept of the African-American representation in the anime world and characters that are conducive to our food products,” he said.
“Bringing those two cultures together has given us the ability to diversify our customer base,” he added. “It allows me to constantly bob and weave into different forms of branding, whether we’re a coffee shop, café, or restaurant. And it doesn’t allow me to be boxed in.”