Thirst for life
At 25, Carlie Steiner became co-owner of Himitsu in Washington, D.C., with chef Kevin Tien, who was recently nominated as a rising star chef of the year semifinalist by the James Beard Foundation. Steiner and Tien had briefly worked under chef José Andres at his restaurant Oyamel before Steiner went on to open the bar at Andrés' cocktail lab concept barmini. Since Himitsu first opened in 2017, lines have formed for a spot in one of only 24 seats. What tricks of the trade does the young entrepreneur have to share? Click through to find out.
On sharing and partnership
Steiner says the restaurant is 50-50. She and Tien are half-and-half partners in business and in practice; he runs the kitchen and she runs the bar. She says folks who know her well can easily see how her curated beverage selection is so innately her. And the food—an eclectic, non-traditional mix of southern-inspired Japanese fare—is imbued with Tien. Staying true to themselves and their unique brand is a delicate but determined balance.
Steiner was recruited out of culinary school to open the bar at barmini. She worked there for about two years before she moved on. When Andrés visited Himitsu Steiner says she was literally in tears. And Andrés' tutelage does not go unnoticed. After training under the James Beard Foundation's Humanitarian of the Year, Steiner has a healthy appreciation for philanthropy.
On what success really means
If all the press Himitsu is getting doesn't scream success, then what does? The young entrepreneur says that sure, it's great to make money. But outside of just being happy—because what else is really important—she wants to be in a position to give and feed others.
Her secret ingredient
You can't get Steiner's secret ingredient from the supply chain. That's because it's magic. With all the moving parts that went into opening Himitsu, Steiner says it wouldn't have come to be without a little magic. She and Tien didn't even name the restaurant until very shortly before it opened. People would walk by the construction on Upshur Street in Northwest D.C. and ask what was going on. They'd tell folks it was a secret. Himitsu is Japanese for the word secret.
How psychology marries with serving
Conversations between staff, managers, and customers at Himitsu aren't exactly typical, Steiner says. At family meal, the team might discuss what certain facial expressions mean among guests or how to approach tables. Steiner believes bringing psychology into the mix is all part of the changing restaurant culture.