Angelo Sato is glued to his phone as he orders a health shake from a hipster coffee joint, so far, so millennial. However, he is not a typical twenty-something. At 14 he left a religious cult to make his own living, at 17 he flew from Tokyo to London to ask Gordon Ramsay for a job.
Now at 26 he has opened Omoide (O-Moy-Day) his first standalone quick serve restaurant on Bermondsey Street. Appropriately for someone who has managed to pack in so many, Omoide means ‘memories’ in Sato’s native Japanese. It specialises in Shokuji a meal of rice, soup and pickles. Signature bowls such as The Humble Chicken – den dashi chicken served with 5 grain sushi rice, spicy beansprouts and crispy shallots – would please any clean eater.
The menu may be grab and go, but it is prepared using the Michelin-starred techniques and traditional recipes Sato has collected during an action packed and impressive culinary journey.
His parents were missionaries for what he describes as a religious cult. They worked for free, so at 14 he lied about his age to get a job in a Tokyo restaurant. The chefs had no time to teach the youngest in the kitchen new skills, so he took matters into his own hands.
“I went to Tsukiji Fish Market and met this old Miyagi type character and asked him if I could work there for free,” he says, “Every morning at 3.30 I’d go there and fillet fish for four hours in a row. After that I went to work in the restaurant. One day the chef wasn’t there and I stepped in to do the fish section. I smashed it.”
Stints followed in renowned Tokyo establishments including Les Créations de Narisawa (two Michelin stars) and RyuGin (three Michelin stars). Then one day he watched a YouTube clip of Gordon Ramsay telling younger chefs to get out of their comfort zones. He took the advice at face value and bought a plane ticket to London. Chelsea’s Restaurant Gordon Ramsay was the first stop off the plane.
“I WAITED ALL NIGHT WITH MY SUITCASE AT THE WRONG EXIT. THEN [CHEF PATRON] CLARE SMYTH CAME IN THE MORNING ON HER MOPED AND I ASKED HER FOR A JOB. SHE GAVE ME A TRIAL, AND I EVENTUALLY GOT A JOB.”
Work followed in many more top restaurants including New York City’s Eleven Madison Park (Three Michelin stars) and Restaurant Story (one Michelin star) in SE1 where he was head chef.
It was during this time he fell in love with the area, where he lives with his younger brother and sister who also work at Omoide. “I walked up and down Bermondsey Street for years working at Story, at 5am in the morning and back at 2am. I always wanted to open a business here. It’s like a village, everyone knows each other. It’s also got gyms, restaurants, bars, local parks…the works.”
Not that Sato has much time for socialising these days.
“I get to the kitchen about 4am, the chefs come at 7am. I like to make the dashis and wash the rice myself because it means everything to me. Then I do a bit of admin and try and be at the shop for lunch to get to know the clientele more. After that I focus on my private catering business (I’ll get fired if I tell you the names of the people I cook for!)”.
Unsurprisingly, he has big plans for the Omoide concept, with plans to open four more in London over the next year. Though his mind is clearly busy, he does not appear at all stressed as he jokes around and plays the Usher classic Burn on his phone’s loudspeaker.
These days, things are a lot simpler. “I just believe in Karma,” he says as he sings along.
Explore the neighbourhood – Sato's guide
Flower and Grape, 214 Bermondsey St, SE1 3TQ
There’s eight or nine different tapas style pasta dishes. I go there with friends and my siblings, I have to do all my socialising in one hit to save time.
Black Swan Yard Coffee, 37 Bermondsey St, London SE1 3XF
My friend Andrew owns it. He’s really passionate about coffee and uses a lead filter to get the best water. He does water tastings and swears by it.
Omoide, 126 Bermondsey Street, London, SE1 3HS