This ‘Street Fighter’ Champ Opened One of LA’s Best Food Trucks
Gerald Abraham of Okamoto Kitchen will kick your ass in Street Fighter 2—with any character—and then feed you some of the best karaage that you’ve ever had.
Gerald Abraham will kick your ass in Street Fighter 2—with any character—and then feed you some of the best karaage that you've ever had.
He is an outlier in the extremely competitive world of professional gaming. Despite his mom telling him that video games would get him nowhere in life, he managed to rank among the top 20 Street Fighter 2 players in the US. More importantly, he was able to use his thriving career to find the love of his life in Japan and create one of the most successful newer food trucks in LA, Okamoto Kitchen.
It all happened while Abraham was living in Japan and playing against some of the best fighters in the Street Fighter motherland. During his off time at a bar in Tokyo, he mustered up the courage to approach Chizuru Okamoto, who would later become his wife. As an up-and-coming chef, Chizuru shared Abraham's interests in the lesser-known contemporary world of homestyle Japanese dishes that are popular in Japan but haven't quite made it overseas: chicken nanban with a garlic-teriyaki sauce, gyudon, cheese mochi, and what he calls a "classic-style" oufu Japanese curry made with cream and eaten with cheese-topped rice.
Chizuru Okamoto and Gerald Abraham. Photo by Javier Cabral
These dishes are what Okamoto Kitchen specializes in, and what has made it one of the LA's busier food trucks as of late. Chizuru works the back-of-house and Abraham deals with everything else. At just one year old, Okamoto is completely booked with events until the end of the year. According to Abraham, his success has to do with "applying the same fighter game mentality to running a food truck." This means using strategy and collecting data to "figure out how to win"—that is, to sell more than the other food trucks.
Okamoto's "Nom Bomb" sandwich. Photo courtesy of Okamoto Kitchen
"Every time I'm at a stop where the other food trucks around us are busy but we're not, I stop and assess the strengths and weaknesses of the other trucks just as I would with an opponent that I was playing against. This is the same process that I use to figure out how to win in fighter games," he says.
Okamoto's gyudon. Photo courtesy of Okamoto Kitchen
Abraham has also made his food truck into a living game of sorts by adding a leaderboard right next to the order window where you can see his top customers. You get 20 points for each check-in and five points for each post on social media. The top three get heavy discounts when ordering food: First place gets 75 percent off, second gets 50 percent, and third gets 25 percent. Naturally, Abraham has attracted a few gamers and the competition to become Okamoto's number-one customer has gotten fierce.
Okamoto's Oufu-style curry. Photo courtesy of Okamoto Kitchen
"For gamers, it's all about rankings. They see their names up on the board and they get really, really into it, especially since the top three can upload their images to be displayed on the truck."
Cheese mochi. Photo courtesy of Okamoto Kitchen
To this day, Abraham is still looking for the ultimate challenger in Street Fighter 2—and if you somehow manage to beat him, he will buy you a side dish.