Yamato Flight Kitchen closing after 75 years

Yamato Flight Kitchen business class meal. courtesy photo

BURLINGAME, Calif. — Yamato Flight Kitchen will close Dec. 31 after 75 years of service, its Website states. The business “specializes in catering to the airlines,” and tried to stay afloat amid the coronavirus pandemic with online orders, according to owner Eddie Ishizaki. Online and local meal service will stop Christmas Day, the Website states.

“Our main business is with the airlines — Japan Airlines, United, and due to the COVID restrictions in Japan, the amount of passengers that can go to Japan is very limited, it just didn’t create enough business for us,” Ishizaki told the Nichi Bei Weekly. “For this operation, it wasn’t enough business to sustain itself.” Ishizaki plans to retire after the kitchen closes.

Ishizaki does not think Yamato would have closed if the pandemic hadn’t happened. Prior to the global coronavirus pandemic, “Japan Airlines was ready to have another daily flight, so have two flights out of San Francisco …” He added that the second flight would have “increased our sales and kept us busy.”

Yuichi Nabuchi, a Yamato chef and manager, plans to start a new kitchen or restaurant. “Gathering the customers is the critical part,” he said. Nabuchi hopes to retain the current clientele, as they could “continually get the same quality, same product because I’ll be there and the majority of the staff will come with me.” Nabuchi hopes to open the new venture next February in San Mateo, Calif.

Nabuchi told the Nichi Bei Weekly that Japan Airlines requires businesses to be in operation for six months before working with them. However, Nabuchi said the San Francisco Japan Airlines manager will “give us a chance to serve their lounge menus.”

Ishizaki, his wife, Kikue, and their family opened Pacific Sukiyaki Restaurant in San Francisco in 1946. Later, the restaurant moved to Grant Avenue and was eventually renamed Yamato, the Website states. The Website goes on to say Yamato means “Gate of Mountain,” in Japanese.

According to the Website, Japan Airlines started flights from San Francisco to Tokyo and “selected Yamato to prepare their Japanese meals.” Airline meal preparation moved to Burlingame, Calif. as daily flights to Japan began. Along with preparing meals for Japan Airlines, Yamato prepared meals for Emperor Hirohito in September 1975 and Emperor Akihito in June 1994, the restaurant’s Website states.

The Yamato Sukiyaki House closed in 1997, but the family continued to run the Yamato Flight Kitchen in Burlingame, the Website states. The kitchen prepares business and first class Japanese meals for Japan Airlines and United Airlines flights from San Francisco to Japan, along with “sushi trays and bento boxes for neighbor ceremonial occasions,” according to the Website.

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