Makiko Sano grew up in Tokyo, Japan where she was immersed in cooking from a young age.
“ My cooking inspiration comes from the females in my family; my mother, my grandmother, my aunts. The family all lived in houses on the same plot of land and we ate together every evening; nearly thirty of us in all. Each family member took it in turns to prepare food for this huge family. Monday was my mother’s day with the others helping out. It was all about preparing a meal from scratch. My grandmother made sushi rice, stirring it with such care that it was almost meditative to watch. My grandfather had the longest table, it was like a fairy tale, and the kitchen at my grandfather’s house was filled with huge bowls. It was an amazing atmosphere, and it is where my love for cooking started. ”
Makiko began her own food journey simply, by helping her friends prepare food for children’ s parties.
“ Many of my friends thought it was unusual as well as great to have Japanese food at the party. It was fun and I was happy to make any food, but I felt I needed to understand the basics of sushi as well as what I could do with party platters. A Japanese sushi chef who I respected greatly, advised me to go and work in a Japanese fishmongers. It was tough. But it taught me so much; the discipline of sourcing the best fish, to filleting and pin boning fish, and de-shelling prawns. ”
As the demand for her parties grew, word of Makiko’s amazing sushi spread. In 2007 she was asked to take on the sashimi takeaway counter in Selfridges. This proved to be a very successful venture and gave Makiko the opportunity to provide some of the world’ s most influential people with fantastic sushi.
In fact one of her customers was none other than Buckingham Palace.
“ Standing behind my counter at Selfridges brought me into contact with lots of customers and I began to really understand what people wanted from Japanese food and also how interested they were in it.”
In 2009 Makiko was ready to share her passion for Japanese cuisine with the rest of London and so she opened Suzu, a Japanese restaurant and bar, situated in West London.
“ I loved the idea of making Japanese food more accessible to everybody. Suzu is children friendly, and of course everything has to be fresh and homemade just like my grandmother’s kitchen.”
Makiko’s mother believes in a holistic lifestyle.
“My mother believes that our body can treat itself if looked after correctly. She always takes Royal jelly and goes to bed when she was not well, never painkillers or antibiotics. She believes that preservatives and food colourings are not good for our bodies.”
Makiko is the mother of four children. Sadly her third child Grace died at a very young age. Grace was allergic to nearly everything. Makiko’s second child Leon is autistic.
“ I was worried about Leon since he was baby as he always had an upset stomach and behaved differently to my other children. “
Makiko’s mother believed that his behaviour was connected to what he ate. Makiko started studying about foods more deeply.
“ My mother made everything at home, so I followed her path and made everything at home. When Leon was diagnosed as Autistic we became gluten, dairy and sugar free. Funnily enough, it wasn’t tough for me, as Japanese cuisine is often gluten and dairy free. Leon’s behaviour changed dramatically. The diet also felt healthier ”
In memory of Grace, the restaurant bears her name. Suzu was Grace’ s Japanese name. It means“ a happy long life ”.
“ I was lost. I didn’t know what to do.. I felt like I lost part of my body. But I found out I was pregnant again on the day when she passed away. It was tough year as I lost one daughter and I gave birth to another in same year. But my youngest daughter Verity kept me busy and gave me hope again. I was so afraid that I might stop thinking about Grace as time passed. I would feel guilty every time I laughed or smiled. So I wanted to give my business her name to remember her everyday and make sure her name Suzu is successful.”