Chef Katsuji’s “Mexikosher”


Tova Abady

Kashrut has made me a better chef, a better father, a better husband, and a better person,” says celebrated Los Angeles chef, Katsuji Tanabe.

Since 2011, Tanabe has been chef-partner at Mexikosher, the first authentic kosher Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles. Although Tanabe himself is not Jewish, he has made a commitment never to compromise in the preparation of kosher food. He also appreciates closing on Shabbat to spend quality time with his wife and children.

Chef Tanabe grew up in a heavily populated Jewish neighborhood in Mexico City where an Orthodox Jew lived next door to him. The chef enjoyed his relationship with the Jewish community in Mexico and now appreciates his warm relationship with our community in Los Angeles.

Chef Tanabe uses only healthy spices and seasonings that are fresh, all natural, and dairy free. The spices sold at Mexikosher are gluten-free and non-GMO, with no preservatives. Tanabe has taken international cuisine to new levels and therefore it came as no surprise when Tanabe acquired the prestigious honor of being named the winner of the Food Network’s competition show “Chopped.”  He has also served as a contestant, judge, and mentor on other popular cooking shows.


A sample Kasher L’pesach dish

These are remarkable accomplishments, particularly because the half-Mexican (on his mother’s side), half-Japanese (on his father’s) chef came to the U.S. at the age of nineteen with only five dollars. Chef Tanabe was determined to make the American Dream come true. He attended the famed Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, and got a job at acclaimed non- kosher restaurants Bastide and Mastro’s steakhouse. He was then offered a job at Shiloh’s steakhouse, but had no idea it was kosher. After learning about kashrut from Kehilla, the certification agency, he recreated the entire menu, and Shiloh’s became one of the top kosher restaurants in Los Angeles.

A new chapter in Tanabe’s successful career began in 2011, when he brought his culinary expertise and inventiveness (delighting kosher connoisseurs) to his new restaurant, Mexikosher. In fact, one patron at his restaurant who was a baal teshuva said the food was so amazing that he hadn’t tasted a dish like that in twenty years. He apparently couldn’t believe it was kosher so he called the supervising kashrut agency at the time, (Kehilla), and they came in to observe and assure him that the incredible creation was, in fact, perfectly kosher.

In addition to dining at the restaurant, Mexikosher offers two options for catering. One is their famous taco bar, and the other is offering the unique tastes from countries around the world. Chef Katsuji gives back to the community, serving as a personal mentor and celebrity representative for Jewish Big Brothers & Big Sisters, Los Angeles, where he happily offers his time and expertise in teaching healthy eating and cooking alternatives.

Thanks to Chef Katsuji, Jewish Angelenos and tourists now have access to very high-end kosher food, even during Pesach. The restaurant will be closed two days before yom tov, beginning Wednesday evening, in preparation for the holiday. The menu for the Pesach holiday includes mouth-watering entrees including his signature braised beef, chicken, lamb, and one of his many international specialties, Korean-style ribs.

Chef Katsuji shared with us this amazing creation:

Korean Short Ribs 

10 Miami short ribs

1/2 cup peeled ginger

4 cloves garlic

3 red jalapeños

1 cup sugar

1 cup lime

1 bunch cilantro
1small pear

1 cup cottonseed oil

1/4 cup salt

Mix all the ingredients in the blender

Marinate the ribs for 5 hrs.

Grill over charcoal

Serve with fresh lime and cilantro

All of the entrees are non-gebrokts and contain no kitniyos or matzoh. Mexikosher is currently under the supervision of the RCC. The portions are generous, the food incomparable, and the prices are the lowest in the area for dining out on Pesach.

Mexikosher will open for business on chol hamoed. Chef Tanabe will be there at the restaurant and even serving customers.