MAI PHAM - WINE DIRECTOR | CHELSEA NAPPER - BAR DIRECTOR | MICHAEL OLSZEWSKI - INVESTOR
Following time spent in several of Chicago’s award-winning and Michelin-starred kitchens, Mari Katsumura showcases a wide range of expertise and passion as the Executive Chef & Pastry Chef for Yūgen. Inspired by both her Japanese heritage and classic French training, Katsumura presents a diverse menu rooted in culture, passion, and unsung flavor while highlighting her fresh, energetic approach to fine dining. “This restaurant, in many ways, is a culmination of my familial upbringing as well as all the kitchens I’ve been privileged to work at,” she says. “It’s exciting to be able to bring my family’s heirloom recipes to life while expressing my vision as a fine dining chef today.”
Captivated by the cooking process as a whole, Katsumura’s cooking style leans heavily on progressive Japanese cuisine founded upon classical French techniques and the use of high-end, artisanal ingredients. “It is a dream to bring contemporary Japanese cuisine to life and to be able to share that with others,” she explains. Supported by her talented team of culinary and hospitality experts, Katsumura provides a unique and wholesome dining experience for guests, leaving them to want more.
Born in Chicago, Katsumura grew up fully immersed in culinary culture at a young age. Raised directly above her family’s restaurant, Yoshi’s Café, she spent many afternoons as a child watching Julia Child and Jacques Pepin on public television. Originally dreaming of becoming an artist, Katsumura attended liberal arts college in Hudson Valley, NY, studying art history and studio arts. After reevaluating her interests and passions, she then moved to Minnesota to attend Le Cordon Bleu in Mendota Heights, MN, solidifying her decision to become a chef. Upon graduation, she moved back to her home of Chicago to pursue another culinary degree at The French Pastry School in Chicago.
Katsumura began her professional culinary career interning under iconic chef Rick Bayless at the famed Frontera Grill—leading her to take up a position at the original Xoco. Transitioning to the world of pastry, she completed an internship at Boka in addition to joining the opening team as pastry sous chef at The Pump Room inside the historic Ambassador Hotel in Chicago, working closely with Chef Jean Georges Vongerichten. Katsumura then spent three rewarding years at Grace in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood, being part of the team that helped capture three Michelin stars for the restaurant.
Subsequently, Katsumura worked under Chef Dana Cree as pastry sous chef at Paul Kahan’s flagship restaurant Blackbird. Her impressive resume also includes working under Chef Ryan McCaskey at the two Michelin-starred Acadia in Chicago. Shortly afterwards, Katsumura opened two restaurants, Entente with Chef Brian Fisher, which received a prestigious Michelin star in 2018, and Gideon Sweet, a restaurant concept from culinary veterans Matthias Merges and Graham Elliot. Now, she brings her talents to Yūgen, sharing her dedicated passion for fine dining cuisine while also honoring her family’s heirloom recipes.
In the future, she aspires to own her own bakery, travel the world, and rekindle her love of drawing and painting.
GENERAL MANAGER/DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS
General Manager & Director of Operations Morgan Olszewski brings an enlightened perspective to Yūgen, focusing on fluidity, transparency, and creativity. For Olszewski, a working environment has to be welcoming of varying opinions, with the effort to incorporate all creative ideas into the overall strategic plan for success and growth. “I believe the creative aspect of the restaurant and the business portion should work together as a holistic entity, not as two separate things,” she says.
With Yūgen as her first venture in the restaurant industry along with Onward in Rogers Park, Olszewski embraces the unique perspectives from her teammates’ personal and professional experiences, crediting their knowledge as an opportunity to further her development as a restaurant manager. As a proponent of higher education with a lifelong passion for hospitality, Olszewski believes in finding the harmony between the business side and the hospitality side of the restaurant industry. “Transparency is also key, leading individuals to understand each other’s passions and strengths, and forming mutual respect between the back and front of house in a restaurant ,” she explains.
A native of Barrington, IL, Olszewski, who scored an impressive 177 out of 180 on her LSAT , graduated from Loyola University Chicago’s Quinlan School of Business in 2017 with a degree in business management and minor in Spanish language and literature. In 2018, she earned an MBA in entrepreneurship along with a certificate in business ethics, also from Loyola University. While pursuing her master’s, Olszewski gained versatile experience as a teaching and research assistant, learning the ins and outs of various business and management arenas, including microenterprise consulting, engaged learning business statistics, and strategic management.
Upon graduation, she jumpstarted her professional career by becoming involved with Best Buddies Illinois, consulting with their employment program as well as holding an internship with the Justice System Restart Initiative—allowing her to combine newfound business knowledge with a passion for making a positive difference in the community. Olszewski also gained early experience with real estate and business by working for Area Wide Reality & Mortgages, analyzing their financial data and building business plans.
Now, as the co-owner of Yūgen, Olszewski aims to explore the other side of business—the creative, artistic aspect that showcases the beauty of Japanese cuisine mixed with the subtlety of fine dining . For her, Yūgen represents the ultimate tenets of hospitality where people receive expert care and of course, delicious food. “When pondering the meaning of hospitality, I think of Sunday family dinners at my grandparents’ home and how these amazing homemade family dinners brought people together no matter what,” she says.
Outside of work, she dedicates her time to philanthropic organizations, including volunteering with Best Buddies, serving as a Co-Chair of the Young Leaders Council, and being on the Associates Board of the Chicago Zoological Society. She also spends her time staying active and healthy with various sports activities, including being a three-time Chicago Marathon runner, and exploring the outdoors with her friends and family.
For over 20 years Michael Olszewski has built a successful career as a prominent real estate developer, working closely with the City of Chicago as a court appointed receiver and licensed developer. He also services nonperforming real estate assets for institutional lenders, governmental entities and Wall Street Firms, having liquidated over $1 billion in real estate assets. He is also a licensed real estate broker in the states of Illinois and Wisconsin with offices in each state.
According to the MLS, for the past decade Olszewski has ranked number two in total value sold and has sold over 2% of the total market share. Following an outstanding restaurant experience with his wife, Olszewski’s passion for fine dining was ignited. He was inspired by how the balance of food, hospitality and service could truly transport and change one’s perspective. He aims to deliver such an experience to diners from around the globe as Co-Owner of Yūgen in Chicago. Upon falling in love with gastronomy, Olszewski forayed into the restaurant industry as Owner and Operator of Chicago’s former Grace, where the restaurant earned a coveted 3-star rating by Michelin Guide, among numerous other accolades worldwide.
At Yūgen, Olszewski’s goal is to establish the contemporary Japanese concept as a recognized destination for one of the most enjoyable dining journeys in the country. Working alongside Co-Owner and daughter Morgan Olszewski, Executive Chef Mari Katsumura and other seasoned industry veterans, he is motivated by Yūgen’s powerful leadership team. As Yūgen’s sole investor, Olszewski is proud to support his colleague’s creative ambitions.
Olszewski is dedicated to creating an environment that allows for a memorable experience at each and every visit. As a goal-oriented professional, he thrives off the challenge of combining the creativity of the restaurant industry with finance. Outside of his career in real estate development and restaurant ownership, Olszewski enjoys spending time with his wife, children and his network of close family and friends.
Yūgen is to be part of a certain magic evoked by poised equilibrium of excellent cuisine, inspiring design and unforgettable hospitality.
Experienced, warm hospitality will abound. Yūgen is to be guided through the dining experience with a touch that is at once knowledgeable and gracious.
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