Interviewer: Thank you so much for being here. I did want to ask, what brought you to Las Vegas?
Chef Misuzu: I knew I wanted to be a pastry chef and wanted to learn English because I fell in love with learning English, so I wanted to do both, and then I figured out that I should study them together, so I don’t waste time. I was looking into going somewhere abroad, and I knew wanted to go (abroad) when I was in high school. I was planning to go somewhere to learn English after high school. But my mother didn’t let me because, in her generation, one should go to college. She said, “Ok, you can go to college in Japan, then you can go.” So I did two years of college in Tokyo, Japan. I took English literature, so I kind was preparing for my studying abroad. Then, I was looking for schools for pastry, but just considering my English ability, I felt I was not at enough level to learn, so I wanted to see what options there were. I originally wanted to go to London first, just because that was my dream like London sounds good, also the British accent sounds clean. When I was searching for schools, I found out that going to Europe like London was very expensive. When I was looking for more options, the study abroad agency introduced CSN (College of Southern
Nevada) in Las Vegas. I got interested in learning more about this school through the agency. I found that the school offers a pastry program. From my calculation, there were 3-4 times of difference (in terms of the cost) going to London versus Las Vegas. I thought that instead of going to London for 3 months, I would like to go to Las Vegas for a year because I thought that just going to London for 3 months won’t be enough to study even English. So I decided to go to Las Vegas. That was not my dream choice, I didn’t know much about Las Vegas. However, at the time the movie “Ocean’s Eleven” was shot in the city. I watched the movie and it was great that I watched it over and over again.
Interviewer: I love that, that’s so cute.
Chef Misuzu: then I actually found out that it was a good opportunity here for a culinary field because at the time there’re a lot of hotels and 5-star restaurants in Las Vegas. I didn’t know much about casinos and other stuff in general about Las Vegas, but it just happened to be a good opportunity for me.
Interviewer: Absolutely, that’s amazing. How do you think your experience in Las Vegas transitioned into the creation of your company Suzuya?
Chef Misuzu: When I went to school (CSN). In the beginning, I was not thinking about owning a restaurant or a pastry shop. While learning English and pastry in school, I did an internship. One time I had to go back to Japan because my student visa expired. I had 1-2 years of gap, then came back since we decided to get married. After the marriage, I applied for a work permit that had to be issued to work as a pastry, I was working as a server at a sushi restaurant. When I was applying for a pastry position, Aria resort casino was opened. I eventually got the position and quit my previous job at the restaurant. While I was working at the sushi restaurant, my coworker asked me to make Japanese cakes, so I said “sure” since I was practicing it. I gave them sponge cakes and etcetera until they get tired of it.
When I started working at Aria, I wasn’t making Japanese cakes. Later I got a full-time job there. One time my friend called me to make a Japanese cake again and made it for her. She told her friends how good it was, they wanted to have it. I also gave them since I wanted to practice more because cakes were not something that I used to make at the workplace. Most of the time, those friends and their families were Japanese people in the town because they say that they can’t find the cakes that they want. They’re used to Japanese cakes, which are less sweeter than those from the United States. I didn’t charge for these cakes and just gave them for a while since I wanted to just practice. Later my friend kind of pushed me in to do it as a side job because she will get me more friends, and more orders. Eventually, I decided to set up my business on the side. I knew that I can’t make cakes at home and sell them. I was doing 2-day ordering delivery on weekends. The Japanese restaurant I used to work at reached out to me to help with their desserts. I was helping to make desserts. When they opened a new location, I was there almost every day, making recipes and teaching the pastry professionals there. One day when I asked them if I can use the kitchen to make my cake there while it’s closed. There was also a problem with zoning regulations. I couldn’t use my resident’s address for my business since it wasn’t allowed to do it at this address, so I asked them to use the address to start my own business. It was when I was still working at Aria full-time. On weekends, I was helping the restaurants and making the cakes for my business. The owner of this restaurant was very helpful and supportive. I actually delivered the cakes that I made to customers like ‘’Kiki’s Delivery Service”. I was just charging for ingredients at the time just because I wanted to practice and see their face one by one, I can never stop creating cakes when I see the customers look happy.
Interviewer: that’s so sweet. So it’s started off with one friend, and it’s progressed from there. Like from the one who really wanted to try some Japanese cakes, then from there, by words of mouth, more and more people started wanting your cakes, is that correct?
Chef Misuzu: yes, literally by the words of mouth.
Interviewer: And how long did it take you from the transition from the restaurant to having your own pastry?
Chef Misuzu: Actually when someone at the restaurant found that I was doing my own business there, I was told that whether I have to leave the restaurant, or stop my own business. So I chose to leave the restaurant to open my business.
Interviewer: Wow, so you alternated them. Was that scary for you to make the jump from having a secured position to kind of being at your own?
Chef Misuzu: Yes, it was because I liked the job and liked the people working there, it was a very secure job. For something I could do, they were very supportive. But it was not really challenging for me anymore after
two years, and I was transitioning anyways. It was really a hard decision and just happened. I didn’t have a plan right after leaving, like what I was going to do in the business. I was thinking about it, but then it wasn’t ready. I was expecting to work for more than 10 years and become ready. After leaving, I found the only thing I could do was open a business with these ideas.
Sushi restaurant helped me during the transition. They hired me more hours for help and I did it for about 8 months until I open Suzuya. Probably a year before from opening of Suzuya, I already was making cakes for the people.
Interviewer: What do you think drawing view to make a big map of it? Was it just from a pure love for what you do?
Chef Misuzu: I think so. I really like doing it. I do think recipe creating is something I’m passionate about, it’s so difficult, but it’s almost like a science experiment. I always liked that when I was a kid. These minds on the side, I really wanted to make something which I’m good at that makes someone joys.
Interviewer: what’s a story you have. That’s really hard.
Chef Misuzu: that’s a natural thing to me. When I started, it was a really small step. If I didn’t meet a friend, probably I didn’t start it.
Interviewer: So you only took 8 months for transition.
Chef Misuzu: yes, when I think about it I think it’s quick too. But I felt so long at the time because I was also working at the sushi restaurant while preparing for opening Suzuya. Doing the business at the first location of Suzuya was really hard, comparing with the current location. Now is not as difficult as before. we have 8 years of experience and history, as well as reputation. Back then, I was just a young Japanese girl at 29 years old with not much money in my bank account, and no work experience, it was so hard to find something even a job. Nobody wanted me of course.
Interviewer: How did you get the first location in such a difficult situation?
Chef Misuzu: I was just driving around and taking notes for phone numbers, and just called brokers when I find something interesting. Not many people responded. Eventually, one property that will end up being the first location was really close to our house. When I called the management of the property, they were willing to have me, and I was lucky to get the spot.
Interviewer: that’s hard. I suppose looking back and now, you wouldn’t have changed anything,
Chef Misuzu: I’m glad I didn’t. I kind of regretted it for the first few years. Like “why did I choose this career? I could have gotten jobs that are so much easier.” I was physically and mentally pretty down for the first few years because I was not doing well. I didn’t reach the goal that I set. I did see the idea for the cakes and fill the shelf, but I also found that I want to create detailed cakes which take more time. Now I’m so glad that I went through this because Suzuya made me learn and grow as a professional.