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Shota Nakajima Is Pulling Out of His Restaurant Project in Cle Elum

The celebrity chef announced that he’ll no longer be involved in Banzai Teriyaki

A man with black hair smiles while he talks to customers sitting at the bar of his restaurant.
Shota Nakajima chats with customers at his Capitol Hill restaurant Taku.
Austin Quach

In February, Seattle’s favorite celebrity chef Shota Nakajima announced he was opening his first teriyaki restaurant in Cle Elum, about 100 miles east of Seattle. There was a soft opening in late March, which Nakajima said was a smashing success, and he was planning to add a spicy fried chicken sandwich business sometime this summer as part of a large complex in Cle Elum containing Banzai Teriyaki, the sandwich shop, and a concert venue called Studebaker Alley.

Then, on June 23, Nakajima told Eater Seattle that he was pulling out of the project, providing little information about what happened to what was one of the spring’s most anticipated restaurants in the Seattle area. He posted the same message he sent to Eater Seattle on his Instagram account the following day.

“I wanted to update everyone that I am no longer part of Banzai Teriyaki in Cle Elum,” Nakajima wrote on the post, which featured a selfie of himself and his dog, Dodger, in front of a mountain-rimmed lake near Cle Elum. “I absolutely have nothing but love for the community who came together for this project and gave it life, attention, and support. The natural beauty of Cle Elum doesn’t stop at just the surroundings, and I am lucky to have met some incredible people in my time out there while learning and growing from this process. I’ve got some exciting news coming up soon, so keep your eyes peeled here for more from me and my team!”

Nakajima declined to provide more information about why he’s leaving the project, and his Cle Elum business partner, mortgage broker Eric Bolstad, did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication. It’s unclear whether Banzai Teriyaki will still open without Nakajima in charge of the kitchen.

Nakajima’s publicist said she’d provide more details about what happened soon, and that Nakajima will have new projects to announce shortly. The hashtags on his post about Banzai Teriyaki (#backtothehill, #capitolhill, and #coming soon) hint that he may have a new Capitol Hill restaurant in the works.

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