Chef & partner
Chef Ken was born in Saitama, Japan and, from early childhood, was raised in Monterey Park, CA. Straight out of high school, Chef Ken got his start at Kayo; a neighborhood restaurant in Monterey Park, learning traditional techniques for preparing robata, sushi, and tempura. Chef Ken’s previous experience in the kitchen also includes working under Christophe Moreau for Patina Pastry of the Patina Group in Burbank.
Chef Ken cites his grandmother as a huge influence on his family. She was a remarkable artist who drew and sculpted in leather. “Both of my siblings, Eriko and George, and I all followed creative career paths due to her powerful artistic sensibilities that she shared with us.”
Chef Ken has been with Mélisse since 2001, and he recalls being rejected by Chef Josiah twice before being allowed to work as an extern in the kitchen. Through persistence, his passion for self-development, and years of on the job experience, he was eventually hired as a sous chef. After three years, Takayama was finally promoted to Chef de Cuisine, where he has been amazing clients with his talent ever since.
Born in Los Angeles but raised in the Sierra Foothills, Matthew’s first interest was in music and it has stayed with him throughout his life.
It was at around age twenty-one that Matthew first took an interest in wine. Two of his best friends introduced him to the world of wine, and it sparked an endless source of fascination for him. Matthew started tasting as much as possible, meeting winemakers and reading wine encyclopedias.
Matthew first heard of Mélisse the very first night he ate there. He remembers that he went on a whim - he found photos online of the food and was intrigued. He agreed with his friend that if the restaurant had a table open, they would go, and they did. It was that dining experience that cemented Matthew’s passion for taking his career in food and wine to the next level. In less than a year, Matthew became a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers. It took two years and three attempts before Matthew was offered the opportunity to stage at Mélisse. His persistence paid off, and he was first brought on as a part-time Captain, then later Assistant Sommelier and ultimately, Wine Director.
Culinary Development Director
Daniel Freeman’s career has spanned the globe and earned him a wealth of culinary knowledge. A native of Santa Monica, California, Daniel gained an appreciation for fresh vegetables and rustic cooking from his mother, who built farms in local schools and taught children about growing vegetables and healthy eating habits. He developed his love for fresh, seasonal ingredients through modern and old world cooking techniques.
Daniel began his career at Josiah Citrin’s Two Michelin Star restaurant Melisse, and worked his through the kitchen. After leaving Melisse and Los Angeles for the flourishing restaurant scene in New York City. He landed first as sous chef to Gregory Pugin (tenure with Joel Robuchon) at Veritas, where the focus was formal tasting menus that matched one of the countries best wine lists. From here he moved on to be chef de cuisine under Jonathan Waxman at Barbuto, where he learned relaxed casual excellence while utilizing seasonal ingredients to form the daily changing menu. After Barbuto he spent time freelance catering for the Brooklyn gem Robertas and was later recruited by chef Justin Smilie to help open Il Buco Alimentari. After 12 years in bustling kitchens he received an invitation to cook for the band the Kings of Leon as the tour chef and travel around the world executing daily healthy menus for the band members and family. Since Moving back to Los Angeles, he has ran kitchens for local legend Hans Rockenwagner and eventually landing back at Melisse.