HOUSTON – If you’ve lived in Texas more than a minute, there’s a good chance you know Glen Gondo, even if you’ve never met face-to-face. If not, you only have to go as far as your nearest HEB for a first hand introduction. The Houstonian has been supplying sushi to 189 of the grocery-giant’s three-hundred-plus stores for more than a decade, all from kitchen of Tokyo Gardens Catering, right here in Houston.
“It helps promote Japanese culture and I’m very proud of the Japanese culture,’ Gondo explains.
Like most home-grown businesses, the little catering company on Blalock started small, offering sushi bars to parties and events. But when word got around, word got around. And it wasn’t long before others in the food business took notice.
“In 2002, HEB wanted to have a sushi bar down in Friendswood and that was our first one and I was a little apprehensive but the first week, boom, we broke sales records.”
For those who have been in town awhile, it shouldn’t be a surprise. Chew on This: Gondo’s family opened the first Japanese restaurant in the state of Texas back in 1962 and also the first Japanese restaurant in Houston, the original Tokyo gardens on Westheimer back in 1966.
“My mother and father were interned during the war,’ Gondo remembers, ‘but they were American citizens, but they never complained to me about it, they wanted me to assimilate as an American and they spoke only English to me.”
While the restaurant has been gone for years, the catering company has blossomed, working to develop new recipes on a daily basis.
It’s a labor that’s paid-off. Aside from the nearly 200 kiosks inside HEB stores across the state, the little catering company on Blalock also supplies sushi to united airlines for in-flight meals.
“I love the business,’ Gondo says. ‘I guess you have to be in this business to love it because everyday I look forward to coming to work.”