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Boka Brings a Favorite Chef Back to Chicago To Run Momotaro

Gene Kato’s stint in Charlotte was brief

Marc Much/Eater Chicago
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Boka Restaurant Group struck quickly in finding a new chef at Momotaro, its critically acclaimed Japanese restaurant in Fulton Market. After teasing an “exciting” announcement in mid-October, Boka has named Gene Kato as Momotaro’s new executive chef. Kato spent the last three months in Charlotte, North Carolina at Upstream. He’s known in Chicago for work at Japonais and Sumi Robata Bar. He starts in January and replaces Mark Hellyar who’s moving out of Chicago for a new opportunity.

Kato’s reputation was so strong with Boka that company’s co-founder Rob Katz said they hired him without conducting a tasting, according to the Tribune. Katz and co-founder Kevin Boehm are big fans and recently reconnected with Kato, according to a Boka spokesperson. They even hosted a Sumi Robata pop-up last year at Momotaro after the restaurant closed in August 2017.

Gene Kato
Timothy Hiatt/Eater Chicago

During his brief stint in Charlotte, Kato radically changed the menu. Back at Momotaro, a member of the Eater Chicago 38, Kato will ease into his new role. He won’t change things right away, but expect to see a new menu sometime after the New Year.


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