Bryan Emperor

Years of Participation

Bryan Emperor is the executive chef of O-Ku DC, a modern Japanese restaurant in the Union Market district of Washington, DC. A native of Brooklyn, New York, Bryan has spent more than twenty-five years studying the nuances of Asian cuisine, immersing himself in the language, history, flavors, and ingredients of the culture.

Bryan first became fascinated with Japanese cuisine while living as an exchange student in Japan. After college, he worked as a banker at Lehman Brothers, and eventually decided to pursue his passion for culinary arts by enrolling in the Culinary Institute of America, where he studied Japanese cuisine. Bryan completed apprenticeships in Tokyo, mastering Japanese cooking techniques, as well as Korean-style yakiniku.


His esteemed career has lead him to cook in some of the top restaurants in cities around the world including Nobu and MEGU in New York City, later working under renowned chefs Jean Georges and Gray Kunz at. In 2005 he opened RBL, a Japanese restaurant in Beijing, China, eventually returning to the United States to open TEN Restaurant in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2006, and later Departure, a Pan-Asian restaurant in Portland, Oregon in 2009.

While living in Charlotte, North Carolina, Bryan was invited to train as a guest chef at the three Michelin-starred Kikunoi Honten in Kyoto, Japan – a position rarely given to non-Japanese chefs and the first time an American has been honored. There, he received direct tutelage in Kaiseki Cuisine from Master Chef Yoshihiro Murata.

Among other accolades, Bryan’s KALU was honored by Esquire Magazine in 2011 as being among the “Best New Restaurants in America.” He was also the Southeastern winner of Food & Wine’s “People’s Choice Best New Chefs in America” in 2011 and a finalist in 2016’s “Washoku World Challenge.”

At O-Ku DC, Bryan looks forward to bringing to the District the authentic methods and techniques that he has acquired from many years training abroad and creating a progressive menu with the highest quality flavors and ingredients. When he’s not in the kitchen, Bryan enjoys following the nation’s politics and current events.