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Katsuya Fukushima had a life long interest in food but decided to go to the University of Maryland and double major in math and art, unsure he could make a career out of his hobby. Throughout college Fukushima went in to turn in his homework but skipped classes, preferring to stay at home cooking dinner for his roommates and watching the Discovery Channel or Great Chefs. After college he quickly realized that graphic design and mathematics weren’t his true calling, and took a number of odd jobs to make ends meet. When Fukushima arrived for a catering job in Bethesda, Maryland during the US Open and saw the chaos and order of the kitchen, he realized he wanted to make a career out of cooking. Eager to learn as much as he possibly could about the culinary world, Fukushima immediately enrolled at L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

Fresh out of culinary school in 1996, Fukushima took a line cook position at Vidalia under Jeffrey Buben. From Vidalia, he began working three jobs simultaneously at Cashion’s Eat Place under the guidance of Ann Cashion, The National Press Club and Jaleo. After three years Fukushima left the other two positions to stay with Jose Andres at the Bethesda tapas bar Jaleo, and then followed Andres as garde manger to assist with the opening of Café Atlantico.

For the next eight years Fukushima worked with Jose Andres. Andres became a mentor and a friend who saw that Fukushima was eager to learn and challenged him with extra projects like understanding the use of the iSi whippers Andres brought back from el Bulli. After a stint at Verbena in New York and an inspiring season at el Bulli under Ferran Adria, Fukushima was offered the Chef de Cusine position at Café Atlántico and Minibar in 2002. With his boundless curiosity and unwillingness to allow culinary conventions to stand in the way of evolution, Fukushima has managed to turn his kitchen at Café Atlantico into one of the most innovative in the country. Inspired by Andres’ comment that the first three seconds of tasting a food have the greatest impact, Fukushima has taken on the Wonka-esque project of developing a meat-flavored chewing gum. While experimenting with every available product and tool to improve on classic dishes and develop new ones, Fukushima serves playful and personal dishes like A Taste of India Chicken Wing, a bar snack inspired by the chicken wing cooked in a cryovac and carefully de-boned at el Bulli. The dish is made practical and elegant served on a small square of paper on a piece of slate. While Fukushima thought the flavor profiles for this snack held tremendous possibilities, he settled on warm Indian flavors like coriander, cumin and cardamom for the first version.

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