Before opening Kato, the trendy Taiwanese restaurant celebrated by food critics and LA hipsters alike, Jon Yao almost quit the kitchen for law school.
“Honestly, it was just to appease my parents,” the 27-year-old Walnut, California, native, whose parents are of Chinese descent and were born in Taiwan, says of his brief fling with the law. “I figured I’d go to law school and then figure it out from there. That’s like the Asian career path: doctor, lawyer, accountant.” Ironically, it was his parents who asked their son to help them with their big idea: a lunchbox service for university students in nearby Los Angeles.
Within three years, Yao, who was named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list last year, helped them launch the business, quickly transformed it into a chic restaurant and earned the greatest accolade in modern cooking: a Michelin star. The way he tells it, he failed very far upward.