Top 10 Untold Truths of Benihana

Top 10 Untold Truths of Benihana

August 29, 2019 45 By Bertrand Dibbert


Anyone with even a passing familiarity with
the teppanyaki style of dining would know that Benihana is the king of table side cooking.
Their chefs put on a show for diners, while also preparing some truly delicious food.
The restaurant also has some interesting history behind it. These are the top ten untold truths
of Benihana. The founder used to wrestle Most people who get into the restaurant game
start out as cooks, clerks, or even sometimes just opportunistic businessmen. Just look
at Ray Kroc, he went from being a semi-successful milkshake machine salesman to basically stealing
a business right out from under two brothers’ noses. It makes sense, after all. If you work
in the restaurant industry, then you probably know a thing or two about how to make a restaurant
successful. However, it might surprise you to learn that the founder of Benihana was
not actually a businessman or even a restaurant worker in his early days. In fact, he was
doing something very different with his time. Hiroaki “Rocky” Aoki, the founder of Benihana,
was actually a professional wrestler. We’re not talking about WWE style wrestling, either.
Aoki was a serious athlete, earning a spot on Japan’s national Olympic team in 1960.
He was headed to Rome to compete in the games that year, but due to the fact that he was
above the weight for his class, he was unable to compete. Instead of returning home, Aoki
headed to the United States, where his talent for wrestling allowed him to win several titles
over the next few years. It just goes to show that you don’t necessarily have to start out
as a cook to make it big in the restaurant game. All you need is a vision, and maybe
some solid grappling skills. He also used to drive an ice cream truck Of course, you can’t really make it in the
restaurant business if you don’t have a little bit of seed money. Starting a business takes
time and an investment that most people simply can’t afford. When Aoki made the decision
to get into the restaurant business, he knew that he would have to do something in the
meantime to make money in order to fund his dream. The solution to that problem was one
that probably drives down your street every day in the summer – an ice cream truck. Aoki
had moved to New York and was studying restaurant management at New York City Technical College.
He was already chasing his dream, and he was determined to make it happen. In order to
raise money to invest in a new venture., Aoki started driving a Mister Softee ice cream
truck in Harlem. Aoki was determined to make his dreams happen, and this was the best way
to do it. He put his own spin on the ice cream by serving it adorned with tiny Japanese umbrellas.
Of course, during the early 1960s, Harlem was a much more dangerous area of the city,
and the crime rate in New York was already very high. To deter any would-be robbers,
Aoki posted a message on his truck letting them know that he was a wrestling champion,
so anyone who wanted to steal from him would be in for a pretty intense fight. In the end,
Aoki managed to gather up $10,000 for himself, enough to make a serious investment in starting
a business. It is named after a special flower Benihana might not have made it without that
name. Just like the way Ray Kroc idolized the name ‘McDonald’s, there’s something about
the way Benihana just rolls off the tongue. It sounds exotic, and yet welcoming at the
same time. That’s obviously the kind of thing that Aoki was going for. However, most people
probably don’t even realize that Benihana actually is a Japanese word and not a proper
noun. The name actually comes from something very personal to Aoki and tied to Japanese
history all at once. When Aoki was young, his parents owned a coffee shop that was also
named Benihana, and where they got the name for their coffee shop originally is both sad
and beautiful. The shop was open during World War II, when Japan was fighting against the
Allies. After the bombing of Tokyo, Aoki’s parents looked out at the remains of the city.
There, in all of the destruction, Aoki’s mother and father saw a single red flower growing
out of the rubble. It was taken as a symbol of endurance, and it became the inspiration
for naming their shop. Benihana is actually the word for Japanese red safflower, which
was the plant that had grown through the rubble. By naming his restaurant Benihana as well,
the young Aoki was carrying on the tradition his parents started. Muhammad Ali was an early fan Anyone who has watched any episodes of Restaurant
Makeover or Kitchen Nightmares knows that starting a restaurant is a risky venture.
There is absolutely no guarantee that your business is going to succeed instead of others.
It is always a big step to give everything up and start a restaurant because the initial
investment is so high, that you might even end up losing money for months before actually
making any of it back. That was the problem facing Aoki, whose first Benihana location
struggled, just like any other restaurant. It was not attracting the kind of attention
that he wanted, and what made the restaurant memorable to crowds for years was what was
keeping people from going there. You couldn’t blame them, really. The idea of having a chef
cook for you and a bunch of strangers right at your table was not something that American
diners were prepared for, or really all that thrilled about seeing. However, some really
good early press eventually turned things around, as a review in the New York Times
raved about the restaurant. Another big boost to Benihana was the fact that Muhammad Ali
was a huge fan of it. Considering just how famous the boxer was in the 1960s, this was
an amazing endorsement for the fledgling restaurant. The Beatles were fans of Benihana too As if having Muhammad Ali endorse Aoki’s restaurant
wasn’t enough of a boost in the 1960s, he also got some help from the Fab Four themselves.
That’s right, the Beatles were huge fans of Benihana as well. John, Paul, George and Ringo
often ate at the restaurant when they were in New York. Just to put this in perspective,
if the Beatles were eating at your restaurant in the 1960s, that meant that you had pretty
much made it. They were the most famous people in the world at that point, enough so that
John Lennon once said the band was “bigger than Jesus.”
This celebrity endorsement gave Aoki a ticket to ride all the way to success. His business
was making money eight days a week. All it took was a little help from his friends. Of
course, Benihana only started getting bigger from there. It was a revolution in dining.
People wanted to come together and experience just what this restaurant had to offer. People
would come to Benihana for dinner even if they had just been there yesterday. Quickly
people discovered that settling in at Benihana for a great dinner and some table side entertainment
was the perfect way to unwind from a hard day’s night. Hopefully, we’re conveying just
how big of a deal this was. Aoki sued four of his kids Even though Benihana exploded in popularity,
and became the go-to place for birthday parties and all other kinds of celebrations, not everything
was perfect in the Aoki family. In fact, behind the scenes of the onion volcanoes and the
shrimp tails in the chef hats, things were actually quite turbulent for the Aoki family,
especially much later on in the founder’s life. During his time as the owner of Benihana,
Aoki embarked on several other business ventures, though none of them were ever as successful
as his restaurant. One of these ventures was a “gentleman’s” magazine called Genesis. Let’s
just say that it wasn’t exactly the next Playboy. Aoki also sponsored boxing matches and even independent
plays that were taking place in New York at the time. However, Aoki’s business dealings
were not always exactly legal, and in the 1990s, he was arrested and pleaded guilty
to charges of insider trading. This forced Aoki to step down from his position and put
all of his Benihana shares into a trust. The story only got more complicated, as in 2005,
he sued four of his children, claiming that they were trying to steal his money away from
him. Of course, things were a lot more complicated than that, as the kids claimed that Aoki’s
wife, their stepmother, was the one who was actually trying to take control of all his
money. It just goes to show that with success comes complications, especially when family
is involved. He used to race power boats Back to the lighter side of things, we’ve
already mentioned how Aoki was a little bit eclectic when it came to everything he did
in his life. From wrestling to driving an ice cream truck to starting a magazine and,
of course, founding Benihana, there was just no stopping this guy. Once his restaurant
got big, and he no longer needed to take part in any wild stunts in order to get customers
in the door, Aoki decided to settle down. Just kidding. He actually sought out even
more thrills, this time in the form of racing powerboats and cars in order to promote his
restaurant. Just add it to the list of the many things that Aoki did throughout his life,
including being a bassist in a rock band! Of course, doing all these things could sometimes
get a little bit dangerous. After winning a race off the coast of New Jersey in 1979,
Aoki took his powerboat out for a test run in San Francisco Bay. That time, things did
not go well, and Aoki could have very well lost his life. After the boat lost control
and crashed, Aoki suffered from various injuries, including a ruptured aorta, a lacerated liver
and a leg broken in four places. Aoki, of course, survived these injuries, and even
though the things he did were often dangerous, it just showed his adventurous spirit, the
same one that made him such a success in the first place. Benihana chefs go through intensive training Anyone who has had a meal at Benihana knows
that part of the experience is watching the chef pull off all those amazing culinary tricks.
We’re talking spatula flipping, onion volcanoes, jumping shrimp, and the beating fried rice
heart. You might think that becoming a chef at Benihana would be really hard and that
there would be a lot of intense training that goes into learning the craft of cooking and
entertaining at the same time. Well, you would be right! Being a chef at Benihana is no joke,
and the training regimen for new recruits is a full-time job in itself. Five days a
week, eight hours a day, chefs are trained in the methods of cooking table side while
also putting on a show for the customers. How long does this training go on for? Up
to six months! Imagine the amount of work and effort that you would have to put into
this training program. There are professional chefs who trained like crazy so that they
could specialize in a bunch of different cuisines, and maybe even become bakers in addition to
all of that. These guys are training for this long just to work at one restaurant. But that’s
all just part of the appeal of Benihana. Having a chef who really knows what they are doing
and can offer up entertainment as well as delicious food is part of the whole thing. The founder’s son is a famous DJ We’ve mentioned the founder of Benihana, Rocky
Aoki, several times so far, and you might be thinking to yourself, “you know, that name
sounds kind of familiar, but I’m not really sure if I can put my finger on it”. Well,
unless you’re a fan of electro and pop music, it might have gone right over your head that
Aoki’s son, Steve, is a famous DJ. Steve Aoki has worked with artists from all over the
pop music spectrum, including Lil Jon, Blink 182, Linkin Park, LMFAO, and will.i.am. Aoki
has also done remixes of various different artists, including Kid Cudi. Taking after
his father’s own humanitarian and environmentalist efforts, Steve Aoki founded a charitable organization
called the Steve Aoki Charitable Fund. As an accomplished musician, Steve Aoki has been
recognized for his work with a Grammy nomination for his album, Wonderland. In addition to
his son being famous, Rocky Aoki’s daughter, Devon Aoki, is also a famous model. Apparently,
ambition is a familial trait, as these two kids have just as much drive to succeed as
their hardworking father. The secret ingredient in Benihana’s fried
rice One of the main attractions at Benihana is
their famous fried rice, which chefs will often form into various shapes. You might
think that wouldn’t be very entertaining, but come on! Have you seen them do the beating
fried rice heart? It’s pretty awesome. The best part of the whole thing though is that
after the chef plays with the fried rice for a bit, you get to eat it. And that fried rice
is so, so, so delicious. It’s like there’s a little extra magic in the process that makes
it taste extra delicious. You might think that it comes from the fun of seeing the chef
do all kinds of tricks with the food like the whole experience is psychosomatic or something.
However, there is actually a little extra ingredient that goes into the fried rice to
make it taste so good, and it’s simpler than you might think. The key to Benihana’s fried
rice tasting so delicious? Nothing more than garlic butter, which, if you’re a fan of garlic
bread, you know can make anything taste a million times better. Help yourself to seconds and tap that screen
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