Don Yamauchi was born in Chicago, near the north side campus of Loyola University, son of a second generation Japanese-American father and Philippine mother. His interest in food came early with the aromas and flavors of his mother’s cooking and the exotic flavors of Japanese cuisine from his father’s family. From fifth grade on, he enrolled in all home economics and cooking classes available to him. After working in fast food places, he enrolled in the Kendall Culinary College. Two years later, he had his first real job, at the North Shore Hilton Hotel.
His real training began when he joined the staff at 3-star Carlos’ Restaurant in Highland Park, Illinois in 1989, where he worked under Great Chef Roland Liccioni and later under Great Chef Gabriel Viti for six years. He eventually moved up to executive chef, and it was during this time that Great Chefs was able catch up with Chef Don Yamauchi to tape him for one episode of their Great Chefs – Great Cities series, and for two episodes of their new series, Great Chefs of America.
In 2001 he was brought in to replace retiring Great Chef Jean Banchet at Le Français in Wheeling, Illinois. In 2005, he was selected personally by Great Chef Takashi Yagihashi to take over the kitchen at Tribute Restaurant in Farmington Hills, Michigan when Chef Yagihashi was hired by Great Chef Grant MacPherson to open Steve Wynn’s Okada Restaurant in Las Vegas. Chef Don eventually moved over to Motor City Casino for four years before moving further west to St. Charles Missouri, just outside of St. Louis to be the executive chef at Ameristar Casino.