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Aug 26, 2016

Rolling Forward: An Interview with Ginza Sushi

For a brief moment, Russell Won loses himself in his craft.

As a sushi chef, perfection is paramount and time can truly fly when he's focused. For his customers at Ginza, located at Ward Centre, Russell remains committed to creating the best meal possible. He knows that every slice of fish must be masterfully cut and tenderly molded around mounds of rice. It's this type of attention to detail, along with the warming hospitality that accompanies every meal served, that has earned Ginza leagues of devoted fans. In the interview below, Russell discusses his road to Ginza, his rules for success, and the perks of running your own show.

You're a local boy I understand. How'd you become a sushi chef and open Ginza here at Ward Village?

In September of 2007, I purchased a takeout sushi franchise restaurant in the busy downtown area. There, I was trained with the basics skills and the finer skills of becoming a sushi chef. Through the results of a lot of trial and error, combined with my never-ending desire to improve, I started my career as a sushi chef. Unfortunately, my passion alone was not enough for us to succeed due to the limited conditions of the downtown business district.

However, my wife and my daughters luckily found a vacant space here at Ward Village. So we sold the downtown location, and opened the same franchise here. It took me four years to realize that the takeout concept wasn't producing the results we were looking for. But thanks to my wife, we were able to transform this space into a different restaurant within just three weeks. She is simply an amazing woman and I truly don't know where I would be without her.

Owning your own business is inherently difficult. But once you've worked for yourself it's really hard to go back working for someone else. What's your favorite thing about owning and running your own business?

It would have to be the fact that I have total control and flexibility to provide the best possible food and service to our deserving customers. But more importantly, the true reward is witnessing the joy and satisfaction our customers express when they're finished with their meals. That makes it so special.

I understand that you've actually named certain rolls after some customers, like the Po Malia roll. How does one go about getting a roll named after them?

I am always on the look out to provide what my customers truly want, so with that in mind, I had the privilege of conversing with many customers and received feedback and/or suggestions. The results are new sushi rolls. In a way, this process gave our customers a sense of ownership and credit for that particular roll. Plus, it's always fun to share the stories behind those rolls.

Every time I come here, I feel like I've been eating at Ginza for years. Customer service seems to be a very important part of your business.

For us, customer service ranks as high as providing great food. I truly believe that my God-given talent is the ability to connect with customers. I'm constantly anticipating what customers want before they ask for it. I'll train my wait staff with those same abilities. I'll be so bold to claim that I believe I can turn any frown upside down. And it's true that a smile is that small curve that sets a lot of things straight.

You must have made tens of thousands of lunches and dinners over the years for tens of thousands of people. Looking back, do you have a favorite roll or dish to prepare?

Honestly, I love to prepare it all. Everything. From miso soup to our highest-priced sushi-sashimi combo deluxe. I'll simply put 110 percent effort into everything that we have to offer.

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Ginza Sushi

1200 Ala Moana Blvd

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