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SAORI KAWANO, Founder and President of Korin, Inc.

SAORI KAWANO, Founder and president of Korin, Inc.

After two years of teaching at a public junior high school in Japan, Saori Kawano decided to pursue her childhood dream of introducing Japanese tradition and craftsmanship to the world and immigrated to the U.S. in 1978. Due to her limited English speaking ability, she could only find work as a waitress in a Japanese restaurant. Food culture in the United States was not what it is today and no one was interested in Japan. Over her time working as a waitress, she collected $2000 in tip to begin her own business. Her doggedness paid off in 1982 when she founded her company, KORIN. For over 30 years since this humble company began, KORIN has been providing restaurant quality traditional Japanese porcelain tableware and the largest variety of Japanese knives. Chefs worldwide come to visit the showroom and it has become known as the culinary industry's candy store.

In 2005, she founded the Gohan Society, a nonprofit organization that embodied her commitment to bridge the culinary community. The Gohan Society serves as a resource center for knowledge of traditional Japanese cuisine and as a catalyst for the expansion of that knowledge in the United States. Since the start, her organization has brought people of all backgrounds together through professional scholarships to Japan to study in renowned traditional restaurants, and by collaborating with Japanese chefs to hold courses on classic culinary techniques.

Everything she has created is centered around the idea of sharing knowledge and bridging cultures. She hopes that with KORIN and the Gohan Society to encourage young aspiring chefs to set high goals for themselves as it is in this spirit of perseverance where excellence is cultivated. She looks forward to seeing the evolution of a new generation of chefs, who set new standards for culinary greatness.

Awards Received

  • 2003 - DiversityBusiness.com “Top Diversity-Owned Business Award”
  • 2004 - Asian Women in Business “Entrepreneurial Leadership Award”
  • 2005 - James Beard Foundation “Angel Award”
  • 2006 - NMBC’s Women’s Business Committee "Salute to Women Certificate"
  • 2006 - News Week Japan’s 100 World Renowned Japanese Women (June 2006)
  • 2007 - United Nation’s Nation to Nation Network Leadership Award
  • 2010 - The US Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce’s “Fast 50 Asian American Businesses” Award for outstanding achievements of Asian American-owned businesses.
  • 2011 - The New York Women’s Chamber of Commerce “Woman of Excellence”
  • 2016 - Outstanding 50 Asian American in Business Award
  • 2018 - Foreign Minister's Commendation from Ambassador Reiichiro Takahashi
  • 2019 - Japanese American Association's Honor

Associated Programs

  • 2002 to present - Active member of the James Beard Foundation
  • 2006 - Board of Directors for the National Minority Business Council (NMBC)
  • Executive Vice President/Japanese Liaison for the Euro-American Women's Council
  • 2016 - National Board of Director for Career through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP)