Masataka Kobayashi was born in 1939, and as a youngster in Tokyo, Masa was introduced to Western foods by his father, a food dealer, who encouraged his son to pursue a culinary career, saying “he would never go hungry”.
Masa decided at the age of 16 to become a chef in the French manner of cooking. At the age of 21 he joined the Palace Hotel to work for a Master Chef who trained under Escoffier. His teacher insisted that he train in Switzerland and at the Maurice Hotel in Paris, before moving to the United States to work at LePlaisir in NYC. He then left for California to work at L’Auberge de Soleil in the Napa Valley wine country.
In 1982, the Great Chefs team went up there to talk to him about appearing on the new Great Chefs of San Francisco PBS television series. He was very non-committal, and was the first chef not to jump at the chance to be on TV. That night back in San Francisco, having dinner with our old friend, Bill Kimpton, we were advised that Masa was leaving and going to open a new restaurant with Bill in his first hotel and that yes, he will work with our team. A year later in July 1983, Chef Masa opened Masa’s in the Vintage Court Hotel and prepared three dishes for Great Chefs.
A year and a half later, Chef Masataka Kobayashi was murdered in his San Francisco apartment, but the restaurant continued for years until January 2013 when it closed.