"I don’t think anyone wants to just exist, we want to be in someone’s memory, we want to be thought about”

— Alessandro Borgognone

Alessandro Borgognone, Sushi Nakazawa & Chumley's


 (You can listen to the podcast by subscribing to Creator Lab on iTunes, Soundcloud or your favorite podcast app, just search for “Creator Lab”)

Sushi Nakazawa stunned the restaurant world when they were awarded a notoriously difficult 4 star review in The New York Times by food critic Pete Wells.

But what really goes into creating such a world class restaurant?

We get to hear directly from Alessandro (Alex) Borgognone, co-founder of Sushi Nakazawa, famous for its all star chef, Daisuke Nakazawa, who was the protege of Jiro One, the renowned chef from the award winning documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi.”

He has a remarkable story.

From tracking down Nakazawa on Facebook, to using Google Translate to communicate & convincing him to start a restaurant in NYC – Alessandro personifies the entrepreneurial spirit that’s needed to make a fine establishment like this a reality.

Show Notes


Here are five things to listen out for:

(1) Early Years – starting in the family business aged 13 & what growing up in Brooklyn as an Italian American taught him

(2) Genesis of Sushi Nakazawa – how the film Jiro Dreams of Sushi inspired Alex to find Chef Nakazawa on Facebook, communicate via Google translate to turn his vision into one of the best restaurants in NYC.

(3) The Restaurant Business – with 10 restaurants under his belt including Chumley’s and Sushi Nakazawa – how does Alex think about building a restaurant concept from scratch? Finding a chef, location, naming, costing, crating a menu, launching, promoting and getting people through the door.

(4) Personal – what he thinks about success, what motivates him, his daily routine and why legacy matters.

(5) Fun Questions – his favorite NYC restaurant, pizza places & how his worst job ever involves getting a car stolen!

Time Stamps


  • What is Sushi Nakazawa and intro to Alex [1m51s]
  • His 10 restaurants, including Chumleys and Nakazawa [2m24s]
  • Starting in the restaurant business at 13 yrs old [3m19s]
  • What he loved about the food business [3m44s]
  • Growing up as an Italian American in Brooklyn [4m13s]
  • Working in the family business [5m33s]
  • Bringing back ideas from summer trips to Italy [6m30s]
  • What he wanted to be when he grew up [7m26s]
  • What he learned from the family businesses that he applies to his business today [8m58]
  • Genesis of sushi nakazawa – watching jiro dreams of sushi, using google translate to send a message on facebook to Nakazawa [9m50]
  • Who is and what is the significant of Jiro Dreams of Sushi [11m9s]
  • Who is chef nakazawa from jiro dreams of sushi [12m6s]
  • Navigating Japanese vs Italian culture [12m33s]
  • Using google translate to communicate on a daily basis [14m45s]
  • What does it take to start a restaurant in New York & why sushi is different [16m24s]
  • Deciding on a location [17m54s]
  • His thought process & attention to detail with Nakazawa [18m15s]
  • What it takes to create a menu and what they did differently [20m26s]
  • Importance of sequencing [21m22s]
  • Comparing business partnership with marriage [21m57s]
  • Launch – 3500 requests on open day [22m24s]
  • What they did to build up buzz [23m27s]
  • Hiring good people for a restaurant [25m35s]
  • Getting a 4* review from Pete Wells of The New York Times [26m54s]
  • Marketing & how to stay relevant [30m12]
  • How much does it cost to start a restaurant in Manhattan? $500k-$750k benchmark [34m31s]
  • Why is it harder to start a restaurant business now than in the past [36m25s]
  • What are some hidden costs of starting a restaurant [37m33s]
  • What numbers (KPIs) are they looking at to work out success [38m32s]
  • What is the role of technology in restaurant business [39m47s]
  • How do they think about and manage reviews on yelp, foursquare etc [41m19s]
  • What is driving him and keeps him going, how to be content [44m33s]
  • Daily routine [46m42s]
  • Restaurants he likes in NYC & talking about David Chang [51m11s]
  • “Do you like chick filet or fuku better” [52m27s]
  • Franchise vs creating your own brand – making a statement [52m48s]
  • What is motivating him, leaving a legacy, making a statement [54m01s]
  • What does success mean to him & who are others he thinks are successful? [55m03s]
  • Common traits amongst successful people [56m33s]
  • Best advice he’s ever received – cameo from his best friend Tom & partner at Chumley’s [56m58s]
  • Word association game, fav restaurant, best slice of pizza, best food publication, worst job & favorite chef [58m32s]