The Woman Behind Yokohama Japanese Cuisine and Sushi

Posted by: Shelby Miles on March 10, 2021

Yokohama Japanese Cuisine and Sushi is known for their gourmet sushi, artful dishes and welcoming atmosphere, thanks to Chef Debbie Bennett. Plus, where else can you enjoy your meal while the chef performs magic tricks at your table? 

Just like the entertainment, her story is nothing but ordinary. Read how she went from unemployed and unable to speak English to business owner and fluent.

Q: Tell me about your background. What led you to this point?

A: I have five sisters. When we came to this country from Taiwan, I didn’t speak English at all, and I couldn’t find a job. I didn’t learn English from the school. I learned from TV shows. I watched I Love Lucy, Three’s Company and Sesame Street. They didn’t talk too fast, and they were funny.

Q: How did you end up in Indiana?

A: I chose Indiana because the life is slower here and the neighbors talk to each other. I know all my neighbors. I lived in Washington D.C. for one year and it was too busy.

Q: Why did you decide to open a restaurant?

A: I couldn’t find any jobs because I didn’t speak English, so I did what I loved to do and that was cook. Thirty years ago, it was so hard to find a job if you were an immigrant, even something like McDonald’s. I’ve opened five Chinese restaurants. I opened Yokohama because I wanted people to eat food that is good for you and is like art. 

Q: How did you adjust to living in the United States?

A: I like to work with older people so I volunteered at the hospital and the older people would teach me English. I would get confused and they would help me, but I learned to speak it in only two months. 

Q: What is it like being a female business owner?

A: I always tell my customers that they are the owners. If there are no customers, there is no business. I treat everybody the same. We are all family and all owners. They still respect me. Even when my kids had basketball or marching band and I had to drive them, I still worked here for 12 hours, seven days a week. 

Q: What advice do you have for others in business?

A: Happiness is the most important thing. It doesn’t matter what you do but happiness is most important. You always think your life is long, but it is very fast. If today was your last day, what would you do? I would go shopping. 


Visit Chef Debbie at Yokohama Japanese Cuisine and Sushi, located at 67 N. Madison Ave. in Greenwood. Find more information here.