A Day in the Life: John Sugimura


Photo by Asha Belk

Name: John Sugimura

Age: Older…but young enough not to be bitter.

Where did you grow up? I grew up in the north metro and migrated to the city of Minneapolis early on in my life.

Where do you live? I live downtown and thoroughly enjoy high-rise living, especially when it is snowing and freezing out and I don’t have to shovel or scrape off my car.

Who do you live with? I live with my SO of nearly 22 years and our dog Rudy.

What is your occupation? Currently, I am the executive chef, concept-brand director, and partner for the fine-casual restaurant brand PinKU Japanese Street Food.

When did you come out? I have never been in, unless other people weren’t ready.

How’d that go? Personally, my memories are positive. I had parents that loved me and wanted me to be me. Everyday I received thoughtful messages that I am okay just the way I am.

When do you wake up? My sleeping schedule is driven by morning restaurant shopping starting at 7:00.

Phone alarm or old school alarm? My phone alarm wakes me 50 percent of the time and the other 50 percent of the time is my hungry four-legged BFF Rudy.

What’s the first thing you do in the morning? Turn on the hot water for tea and feed Rudy.

Breakfast? My SO will prepare breakfast for me including a bagel with half-cream cheese/half-peanut butter with sliced bananas…I share with Rudy.

Coffee? I’ve never been a coffee drinker. My morning drink is Earl Grey Tea.

Cream or no? No.

How do you spend your commute: During my six-minute commute, I typically consume Red Bull.

If your job were like a yearbook, what would you be voted? I think I would be voted most creative.

What inspires you? Happy people who make me laugh inspire me…a lot! At this point in my life the one thing I can offer is kindness without expecting anything in return. When I reflect each day and when I feel I have given more than taken, I call it a good day, and feel inspired to do it all over again tomorrow.

Do you eat your lunch while working or take a break? I like to take a lunch break to recharge.

Is your work space tidy or a hot mess? Tidy — ’nuff said!

What’s been your favorite job? Obviously opening PinKU Japanese Street Food and getting to know my customers who have been so complimentary of our restaurant, food, and hospitality. Their authentic generosity has blown me away. People and service is my passions.

For many years I enjoyed public service for the City of Minneapolis Mayor’s Office, PICA Head Start, and Autism Works. Every day I worked aggressively to improve the lives of children and their families.

Who are your heroes? Alyce Dillon, the executive director for PICA Head Start since 1969, is my hero. She has been making a difference in the lives of the poorest families in our community for decades…very inspirational. I adore her!

People who are battling/winning/loosing chronic diseases are my hero. I hate fucking cancer!

Favorite weeknight meal: Go out, take out, or cook in? Eat in and enjoy Aglio Et Olio (traditional Italian pasta dish coming from Naples) made with capelli d’angelo pasta, roasted tomatoes, garlic, basil, and really expensive Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Most embarrassing moment: My second grade teacher hung a sign around my neck that read “I Talk Too Much” and made me walk the school halls and successfully humiliated me.

On a usual weeknight, you are doing what? Working at the restaurant, designing the next restaurant location, creating new menu items for our fabulous guests, walking Rudy and, on occasion, I have been known to sneak off to a movie to get in a treat and down time.

Bedtime: After 9:00 p.m. and before 3:00 a.m.

Favorite weekend activity: I love afternoon movies.

Words of wisdom to share: “I’ve learned that people will forgot what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forgot how you made them feel.”  —Maya Angelou