Born and raised in Japan, Chef Masatomo “Masa” Hamaya journeyed to the US to attend Arizona State University before returning home to Tokyo, where he enrolled in culinary school with a desire to learn the technicalities of his native cooking. With collegiate and culinary education complete, Hamaya returned to the United States to follow his passion and formally launch his career as a chef. As head sushi chef, Hamaya led the kitchen at the critically acclaimed Uchiko in Austin, Texas. In San Francisco, he held the titles of executive chef at Ozumo and executive sous chef at the Michelin-starred Ame.
Hamaya credits the uniqueness, structure, and style of the Japanese culture for his subsequent love of its cuisine. He believes strongly in honoring tradition while also maintaining seasonality and introducing bold flavors in his own dishes. An innate spirit to better himself every day remains a driving force for Hamaya’s success. He believes in taking advantage of produce from local farms, sourcing reputably and responsibly, and utilizing the freshest of fish, imported from Japan. Hamaya oversees the culinary program at all O-Ku locations including Atlanta, Charleston, Charlotte, Jacksonville Beach, Nashville, Raleigh, Washington D.C., and most recently, Greenville, SC. At O-Ku, Hamaya finds joy in meaningful connection and purpose in the details of his work.