Aoki brothers Steve and Kevin are working on expanding two dining concepts, Aoki and Blue tree.

Sibling Revelry

Aoki brothers Steve and Kevin are working on expanding two dining concepts, Aoki and Blue tree.

The Aoki brothers take dad Rocky’s dining concept to the next level.

For Kevin Aoki, restaurants have brought him closer to his family. first, it was his dad, Hiroaki, or rocky, founder of Benihana. “He was always opening restaurants, so the way I got to be close to him was to work for him,” Kevin says. And it turned out, Kevin was pretty good at the business. He worked with his father for 15 years, became VP of his company, and then opened his own restaurants, Doraku (, which means “road to happiness,” a name that Rocky chose. Now, in recent years, a new business partnership between Kevin and his younger brother Steve, one of the highest-paid DJs alive, has strengthened the sibling ties. “We’ve always helped promote each other,” Kevin says. “But as far as a real partnership, it’s the best time right now, when we both have the means to succeed on our own. But together, we strive for better things.”

The two are working on expanding Aoki and Blue Tree ( restaurant concepts. “Aoki is tribute to my father’s concept—we want to bring what my dad brought to Benihana almost 50 years ago,” Kevin says.

What that translates into: Japanese countryside teppanyaki. Whereas in the ’60s, when Americans were still new to Japanese food and Benihana stuck to American favorites such as steak, chicken and shrimp, delivered with Japanese style and flair, Aoki’s serves

kurobota pork, chicken livers and beef tongue to an increasingly cosmopolitan palate. Aoki’s launched in Miami, and Kevin hopes to expand it to Hawai’i and Las Vegas next. As for Blue Tree (which is the translation of “aoki”), a caf? concept promoting healthy lifestyles with cold-pressed juices and kale salads, the brothers are planning on expanding from its first Honolulu location to two more on O’ahu and one in Miami.

“I’m the guy that does the operations, and [Steve’s] more of the visionary marketing guy,” Kevin says. “We respect each other. At the end of the day, it’s the trust that you have in each other and confidence that you give you back and forth makes us excel and want to work harder.”

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