Speaking the Language of Chefs
James Beard award-winner Jimi Yui speaks the language of chefs, affording him the unique ability to create the stages where they perform.
Jimi’s passions for food and design….the recurring themes in his life and work…were cultivated early during his childhood running around and later serving in The Guest House, his family’s acclaimed Shanghai- and Peking-style restaurant in Tokyo. His interests then took form during an education at Cornell’s Hotel and Architecture Schools and resulted in a 35+-year career designing some of the most celebrated hospitality projects in the world.
Since 1986, culinary legends from across the globe have turned to YuiDesign for help realizing their visions. Celebrity chefs, renowned hospitality developers, leading financiers, entrepreneurs, commercial foodservice providers and retailers rely on Jimi’s expertise and insight. He also regularly collaborates with the some of the world's leading architectural and design studios.
Motivated by an indomitable spirit of creative disruption, problem solving and a commitment to excellence, Jimi is recognized as one of the world’s top kitchen designers and industry innovators. He has received wide acclaim, including the James Beard Award—considered the “Oscars” of the restaurant industry—for the SONY Club in New York City, a private dining room designed for Chef Barry Wine and dubbed “the most elegant deal-making space in this country” by The New York Times.
Born and raised in Tokyo, Jimi hails from a long line of hospitality entrepreneurs. After the second world war, Jimi's grandfather traveled with his eldest daughter from Shanghai to Tokyo to open a storied nightclub, where he and Jimi's mother entertained the likes of General MacArthur, Danny Kaye and Marilyn Monroe. For decades later, at The Guest House located in Roppongi's bustling center of business, diplomacy and nightlife, Jimi's mother and father welcomed celebrities and leaders from around the world, including John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Japanese ministers, diplomats and international business executives.
Jimi carried the family wisdom and commitment to entrepreneurialism, service and hospitality when he moved to America as a teenager to attend the St. Louis Priory. He went on to Cornell University's School of Architecture, where he completed four years, and then moved to Cornell's School of Hotel Administration, from which he graduated in 1979. He launched his design career with a six-year tenure at Cini Little International and spent another six years as a founding principal of a hotel management and restaurant development firm.
A Board member of Cornell's Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship, Jimi is also a member of The Cornell Society of Hotelmen and the Foodservice Consultants Society International (FCSI).
Jimi resides in Manhattan and Takoma Park, Maryland with his wife and business partner, Ellen. She is also the founding principal of YUI+Company, one of the country's earliest virtual public relations agencies, launched in 1991, months before the birth of their first son, Zen.
And now, following in the Yui family tradition, Jimi and Ellen's sons, Zen and Yoshi, are exploring their passions for entrepreneurialism, technology design, entertainment, hospitality and thinking way outside the box.