Growing up in a Japanese household in Charlotte, North Carolina, Kato learned to cook the foods so integral to his heritage and culture and is devoted to elevating Japanese cuisine while remaining authentically respectful of tradition.
Prior to becoming a Boka Restaurant group Chef/Partner, Kato owned and operated Sumi Robata, a beloved restaurant that brought Chicago the traditional takumi experience of grilling on a robata using sumi, a distinct Japanese white charcoal. He also had a tenure at the highly regarded restaurant, Ohba, as well as nine years working as Founding Chef and Partner of Japonais, launching the modern Japanese restaurant in Chicago, New York, and Las Vegas.
Kato was named Executive Chef Partner of Momotaro, Boka Restaurant Group's modern, seasonal Japanese restaurant, located in the heart of Chicago's Fulton Market neighborhood in 2019. Since taking the helm, the restaurant has received a three-star review from Phil Vettel in the Chicago Tribune and has been lauded with both local and national praise. His purview encompasses The Izakaya, Momotaro’s basement level bar and restaurant, reminiscent of the Yokocho street scene of Tokyo, which was added to Chicago’s Michelin Guide in 2023. Gene debuted his latest restaurant in Lakeview’s Southport Corridor neighborhood this Spring. Itoko, which translates to “cousin” in Japanese, is inspired by its sister concepts in Fulton Market, and highlights Gene’s passion for traditional sushi and robata dishes.
An innovator of Japanese cuisine, Kato has twice been nominated for a James Beard Award (Best Chefs in America 2017, Best Chefs in America 2020), and is also the recipient of the Jean Banchet Award of Culinary Excellence. When he’s not in the kitchen with his teams, Gene can be found spending time with his son and working on his golf game.