How did Chris Johnson get into the sake world?
After college, I worked for a year and realized the suit wasn’t going to work for me. I got a job teaching English in Japan for the Japanese government. I lived in Japan for three years, where I was exposed to sake but didn’t really know much about it. My real “aha” moment was when they gave me my farewell party. They gave me this gigantic bottle of one of the super-premium sakes. I was like, “Well, I can’t carry this bottle home — I’ve got too much stuff — so let’s just open it.” It was amazing sake. I was thinking, “Where has this stuff been my whole life? Why did you wait until I was leaving to give me this stuff?” And at the end of the day, it was because it was expensive, and living in the countryside, it was not something our budgets would allow us to drink all the time. It was a special occasion kind of sake. But that opened my eyes to sake. I came back to New York and started studying it and have been working with it ever since.
I was lucky enough to work with Jonathan Morr a long time ago at BONDST when it first opened, and was able to start really exploring the sake world there. Then when they invited me to partake in Cherry and build the list here, it gave us the opportunity to make a really fun, adventuresome cuisine-type destination here in New York City with sake and great food from Andy Choi.