Following time spent in several of Chicago’s award-winning and Michelin-starred kitchens, Mari Katsumura showcases a wide range of expertise and passion as the Executive Chef & Pastry Chef for Yūgen. Inspired by both her Japanese heritage and classic French training, Katsumura presents a diverse menu rooted in culture, passion, and unsung flavor while highlighting her fresh, energetic approach to fine dining. “This restaurant, in many ways, is a culmination of my familial upbringing as well as all the kitchens I’ve been privileged to work at,” she says. “It’s exciting to be able to bring my family’s heirloom recipes to life while expressing my vision as a fine dining chef today.”
Captivated by the cooking process as a whole, Katsumura’s cooking style leans heavily on progressive Japanese cuisine founded upon classical French techniques and the use of high-end, artisanal ingredients. “It is a dream to bring contemporary Japanese cuisine to life and to be able to share that with others,” she explains. Supported by her talented team of culinary and hospitality experts, Katsumura provides a unique and wholesome dining experience for guests, leaving them to want more.
Born in Chicago, Katsumura grew up fully immersed in culinary culture at a young age. Raised directly above her family’s restaurant, Yoshi’s Café, she spent many afternoons as a child watching Julia Child and Jacques Pepin on public television. Originally dreaming of becoming an artist, Katsumura attended liberal arts college in Hudson Valley, NY, studying art history and studio arts. After reevaluating her interests and passions, she then moved to Minnesota to attend Le Cordon Bleu in Mendota Heights, MN, solidifying her decision to become a chef. Upon graduation, she moved back to her home of Chicago to pursue another culinary degree at The French Pastry School in Chicago.
Katsumura began her professional culinary career interning under iconic chef Rick Bayless at the famed Frontera Grill—leading her to take up a position at the original Xoco. Transitioning to the world of pastry, she completed an internship at Boka in addition to joining the opening team as pastry sous chef at The Pump Room inside the historic Ambassador Hotel in Chicago, working closely with Chef Jean Georges Vongerichten. Katsumura then spent three rewarding years at Grace in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood, being part of the team that helped capture three Michelin stars for the restaurant.
Subsequently, Katsumura worked under Chef Dana Cree as pastry sous chef at Paul Kahan’s flagship restaurant Blackbird. Her impressive resume also includes working under Chef Ryan McCaskey at the two Michelin-starred Acadia in Chicago. Shortly afterwards, Katsumura opened two restaurants, Entente with Chef Brian Fisher, which received a prestigious Michelin star in 2018, and Gideon Sweet, a restaurant concept from culinary veterans Matthias Merges and Graham Elliot. Now, she brings her talents to Yūgen, sharing her dedicated passion for fine dining cuisine while also honoring her family’s heirloom recipes. In the future, she aspires to own her own bakery, travel the world, and rekindle her love of drawing and painting.