I can't recall the exact point in time when I fell in love with Japan. Perhaps it was over an exquisite meal at Higashiya, walking the streets of Tokyo or even sitting in the back of the taxi cab observing the drivers' perfectly tailored gloves. It's difficult to describe, but my connection with Tokyo is undeniable, and I deeply understand the passion and dedicated work ethic that the culture embodies. It's unlike any other and it is one that has been preserved for centuries.
My love for this country, the people, food, produce, everything, led me to open my first restaurants outside of the U.S. late last year. SOLA, my California-inspired pastry shop, and David Myers Café at Tokyo's luxury retail mecca, Mitsukoshi, are nothing short of passion projects for me. I have always dreamed of opening a restaurant in Tokyo, and the fact that I now have three is astounding. So as you can imagine, the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and 23-foot tsunami that devastated Japan in early March severely affected me and destroyed a place and culture that had welcomed me with open arms. Over 30,000 people have been confirmed dead or missing and miles upon miles of land and infrastructure have been completely wiped out. It's incomprehensible what the Japanese have been through and will have to go through to maintain a sense of normalcy again.
My emotional tie to Japan and respect for its people have inspired me to help out in a way that I know how. On Wednesday, May 18, I am hosting a charity benefit dinner and calling upon my peers -- Jon Shook & Vinny Dotolo (Animal, Son of a Gun), Jordan Kahn (Red Medicine), Michael Voltaggio (INK.) and Roy Choi (A-Frame, Chego, Kogi BBQ) -- for help. Each of these well-known chefs has willingly and graciously dedicated their time to prepare a special dish for a multi-course tasting menu. Photographers, musicians, magazines and more have all generously donated their time and services, as well as items for the silent auction, which will also be held during the dinner.
We will donate all proceeds from the dinner directly to a special relief fund created for the Ibaraki prefecture, formerly known as the Hitachi province, to assist with the victims of this horrific disaster. This particular area was well known for its agriculture, art and historical sites before the devastation, and it is the home of my good friend and fellow chef, Noriyuki Sugie, who brought this area to my attention. It was also home to Kairakuen, one of Japan's most celebrated gardens, renowned for over 3,000 Japanese plum trees of over 100 varieties. The Ibaraki prefecture is located just 100 miles south of the epicenter of the earthquake and like much of the country, suffered substantial collateral damage to its infrastructure. Specifically, these funds will be used for the rebuilding of a destroyed school and a shelter for children in the city of Hitachi.
Rebuilding Japan while preserving all that it used to be is my goal. Many experts are predicting it will take over $50 billion for the reconstruction of the county and I urge you to join the relief and do all that you can to help this country in crisis. Even the smallest donations are effective and will leave a lasting impact on the Japanese people.
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