By Tiffany Louie
Jay Hamada has come a long way since opening JapaCurry, a food truck business based in San Francisco that serves authentic Japanese curry dishes. Hamada had previously been a successful business manager for a Silicon Valley high-tech company, but just as things were looking up, he was laid off. After some soul searching, Hamada decided to sell his home and use the proceeds to build a business.
“You have to give up something in order to gain something else,” he said. For six months, he traveled to Japan to learn how to cook authentic Japanese food. He apprenticed under a ramen chef and learned the intricacies of tonkatsu, which would later prove to be a popular JapaCurry item. When Hamada returned to the United States, he was determined to perfect a signature product.
Hamada’s original idea of opening a restaurant turned out to be too costly, so he joined the gourmet food truck trend. His custom truck was built by El Monte Catering and designed by Japanese illustrator Tomoko Suzuki, costing a total of $140,000 including permit and license fees. His epiphany to sell curry happened one day when he saw people lined up outside of a Japanese curry house in San Francisco. That’s when he realized that curry would be easy to prepare and serve from a truck.
JapaCurry’s menu is based on Hamada’s personal recipe that is slow cooked for days with a special blend of spices and ingredients. His popular dishes include the chicken katsu curry, pork katsu curry and croquettes.
“I want to try something they don’t usually serve here,” Hamada said, “something unique.” In the future, he would like to expand into actual restaurants and possibly add more trucks.
“I had a dream.” Hamada said. “Being laid off can be a good chance to find yourself, find out who you are and what you really want to do in the future. I found my dream. Find what you love. Work hard at it. You can find your dream as well.”