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Updated by Joanna James on Oct 17, 2019
Headline for 5 Facts About Benihana To get you interested!
Joanna James Joanna James
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5 Facts About Benihana To get you interested!

Everyone loves Benihana for different reasons. Apart from the exquisite dishes offered, people often love to watch the chef dramatically chop and then cook up your food. Here are some fun facts about the Benihana.


Benihana is a flower

Hiroaki "Rocky" Aoki, the owner of this chain, named his place after the cafe his parents owned initially. After the devastating bombing that took place in Tokyo in World War II, his parent saw a beautiful red flower that was growing amongst the rubble. It survived the devastation. Therefore, it was decided that the cafe should be named after this red flower, Benihana, which in Japanese means red safflower. Today, there are branches all over the world with this name. If you are in Thailand and looking for Teppanyaki restaurants, you can easily locate Benihana Thailand.


Rocky Aoki a famous wrestler

You might have expected this popular chain to be run by a famous chef. But that's not the case. Rocky Aoki used to be a famous wrestler who had no experience in cooking whatsoever. Aoki was born in 1938 in Tokyo and was part of the Olympic team for wrestling by 1960. Unfortunately. he couldn't participate in the Olympics and migrated to the US on a scholarship where he won many wrestling titles.


Ice Cream Truck called Mr.Softie

To start up his business, Aoki, drove an ice cream truck called Mr Softie, to collect the capital to open this restaurant. In the meantime, he was also wrestling and studying courses in restaurant management. He would drive in Harlem, selling all kinds of ice creams with Japanese umbrellas to decorate them. As Harlem is not a friendly neighbourhood, he would paste posters of his wrestling career achievements on his ice cream truck. So, if anyone wants to get into a fight, they know he's not an easy target. By the year 1963, Aoki had $10,000 saved up.


25-year-old owner

Aoki was twenty-five years old when he started up his first restaurant. With this $10,000, and some money from his father, he could open Benihana on the West 56th Street in Manhattan by 1964. He's restaurant was not grand and was quite simple with four tables. The menu had the standard items which included chicken, shrimp, vegetables and steak. As he wasn't skilled in cooking, he hired Japanese skilled chefs to make delightful platters.



Like most start-up businesses, the Benihana was not very successful in the beginning. The first 6 months was quite rough, and there was a lot of money being lost. Aoki's novel idea to merge teppanyaki and showmanship and serving to strangers sitting at the same table was failing. However, with a positive review during these tough times, everything started changing for the Benihana. In 1965, Clementine Paddleford writing for the New York Herald Tribune wrote a good review which caught the attention of the New Yorkers and also celebrities from the band the Beatles and Muhammad Ali.