Japanese Chef on L.I. Left Home 1 Day Before Quake

By Greg Cergol
|  Thursday, Mar 17, 2011  |  Updated 6:48 AM EDT
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A Japanese chef who left home for a job on Long Island the day before the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck is struggling to get in touch with friends and family, including his 80-year-old mother.

Minoru Suzuki, speaking through an interpreter, breaks down as he speaks about his homeland.

"I have not slept for three days,' he said.  "I am just worried, worried, worried."

Suzuki, 56, left YokohamaJapan last week for a job at the Luce and Hawkins restaurant in Jamesport, on Long Island's North Fork. 

"He was in the air when he saw on the Internet what happened," says co-worker Michael Kaminsky.

"By the time he landed, he was frantic for information and it has only gotten worse since then," Kaminsky said.

He has spent hours on the phone and Internet, checking websites for any word that his family is safe.  He has been able to contact one uncle; but, has yet to learn his mother's whereabouts.

She lives in Akita but, according to Suzuki, had plans to visit relatives in an area hard hit by the tsunami.

"The fact that I am here, I can't find the reason for that,"Suzuki said.

"But I have to go on."

Suzuki is doing that by cooking.  The kitchen, said co-workers, is the one place to which he can escape.

To help, the restaurant has added Japanese"bento boxes" to the menu.  It is a traditional Japanese meal, one Suzuki said he learned from his mother. 

For each meal sold, the restaurant will deliver 100-percent of the proceeds to a disaster relief agency in Japan.

"It is the least we can do," said Kaminsky.

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