German Osio is already responsible for some popular names in the Valley dining scene, Local Bistro and Central Bistro. Early next year, the 32-year-old Scottsdale resident will bring a very innovative concept, an Asian/Mexican fusion spot, to the Valley: Scottsdale’s Sumo Maya. The trained chef collaborated on his restaurants’ menus with his partners and executive chefs, Andrea Volpi of Local Bistro and Central Bistro, and Herb Wilson of Sumo Maya.
When he’s not running his Valley restaurants, Osio owns a commercial real estate company in his native Mexico City. Read on for how this restaurant mogul got his start, and for what diners can expect from Sumo Maya.
What brought you to Arizona?
Weather, family and business opportunities. I was born in Mexico City and moved to Connecticut when I was 6 years old, then went to Les Roches university in Switzerland and majored in hotel business administration and got a culinary degree. I pursued that for about five and a half years before moving to Texas and lived in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio for about six years and opened four restaurants.
My business partner ended up selling the restaurants, so I decided to move to Phoenix. I was always attracted to Arizona because of the quality of life, the kindness of the people, the cleanliness of the city, and the weather. It was also a market I knew indirectly because my family always had a winter home here. I moved here in 2010.
What’s your earliest memory of wanting to be in the restaurant industry?
It’s interesting, I never felt like I needed to find myself, or that I was lost. I always knew my career would be based in hospitality, since I’d say when I was 6 or 7 years old.
For some reason, I was always attracted to the kitchen. We have phenomenal cooks in the family, so we always found ourselves gathering in the kitchen. From an early age, my mom would always remind me I was more attracted to pots and pans than I was a Tonka trunk or a big red car. I always had it in me. There have been some great restauranteurs in my family, so I always knew this is what I wanted to do.
Why did you want to work with your Local Bistro and Central Bistro chef and partner Andrea Volpi?
When I first moved out here, a restaurant named La Locanda opened and had a great 12-year run. Back in that day, in my family’s opinion, it was the best Italian restaurant in town, so we would gravitate there at least a couple times a week when we were in town.
(Volpi and I) always kept in contact, and I knew he had tremendous talent in the kitchen. I needed to come up with a recession-proof concept and knew the fine dining concept was struggling in the recession, and I needed to come up with a concept more palatable for a broader market.
We came up with a concept where the heart and soul of the restaurant is Italian, but it just has good food that also represented French and Spanish cuisine, as well. There’s pizza and pasta for about $12-$15, along with the more substantial entrees, such as a nice filet or a piece of fish.
What do you hope people take away from a dining experience at one of your restaurants?
We try to support the local community as much as possible. We are locally owned, and we try to work with as many local vendors as possible. We want our restaurants to have soul, not to have the coldness of a corporate-ran restaurant. We try to run things more along the lines of a family-run restaurant that has character and that warm, fuzzy, peachy feeling when you come in.
The quality is also the number one thing. Not every dish is the most profitable for us. I’m not driven by profit. I’m more focused on consistency and that we’re able to offer the best possible product out there.
What can people expect from Sumo Maya?
It should be open by the middle of January and is a very funky, casual environment, very modern. It’s going to consist of the best of Mexico and the best of Asia, where we’ll feature sushi with a sushi bar, we’ll have a ceviche station, we’ll have street tacos, noodle dishes. We are going to have some authentic Mexican and Asian dishes that aren’t fusion, too, so it fits anyone’s comfort zone.
When you break down the anatomy of foods from Asia and Mexico, there are a lot of similarities. You have the sweet and sour, the spicy, the salty — the ingredients naturally go together.
What can people expect from the fusion items?
We’ve been looking at a Peking duck taco that will be served with a corn tortilla topped with pickled jabaneros and cabbage. One of my favorite ones we were playing with is Pad Thai Al Pastor, a traditional Thai noodle dish with pastor pork, grilled pineapples and pickled jalapenos.
With the sushi, we’re going to get into Latin ingredients, such as avocado and citrus-forward sushi rolls, with mango, and have them be a little funkier. We might do a poblano fried rice with green rice.
The cocktails are going to be farm-to-bar cocktails, where everything is freshly squeezed. We’re going to incorporate drinks from both cultures, with sake and margaritas, along with a substantial mescal list.
It’s going to be chef-driven, moderately priced. Everything is going to be small bites, tapas-style. We’re going to be cooking on Japanese charcoal, and we’ll have a great wok station, and it will be an open kitchen.
What are your goals?
I always tell myself, I’m going to continue to do it as long as I’m successful, and I’m enjoying it. I have another concept I’m working on in Phoenix, which will open by next year, as well as a Denver restaurant in the works.
What do you attribute to your entrepreneurial spirit?
Passion. I grew up with a very successful father who was very business-oriented and savvy. I learned a lot from him — most importantly, passion. I don’t do what I do for the money. I do it because I have a passion for it.
I have ADHD, and with a short attention span, I have to keep doing things and could never have an office job.
How would you characterize the Arizona dining scene?
It’s a very good market. Arizona has embraced me and been loyal to me, and I’ve had great success with the two restaurants so far. One thing I’d like to see in this city a little more is a little more ethnicity. That’s part of what I’m doing in Sumo Maya.
I’ve never worked as a server in an Asian or Japanese restaurant. It’s a little nerve-racking, but I’m confident we’re introducing something to this city that’s never been seen. We’re slowly coming on to a metropolitan feel.
Why’d you decide to do a fusion restaurant?
I truly love eating Asian food. If I’m not eating at one of my restaurants, I’m eating at an Asian/Japanese restaurant.
I also had this obligation, being from Mexico City, to contribute a little bit more to Mexico City and what Mexican food is going to be.
I love both food styles, and I went to L.A. to visit a friend of mind. He took me to Koji BBQ, a food truck in Venice, with Korean tacos. I loved the marriage of a Mexican tortilla with the grilled meats and kimchi, and fell in love with it and thought the flavors were off-the-wall.
A really good friend of mine, who is a partner in this deal, is Korean. We spent some time in San Francisco and Vancouver, and he took me around to a lot of the Asian markets. We thought, why not bring these cultures together?
Other than one of your restaurants, what’s your favorite restaurant to go to in the Valley?
Why should people check out Sumo Maya once it opens?
It’s an interesting menu. The food will be a little adventurous in that you’ll get small bites. As long as you like Mexican or Asian, there’s going to be something for you. The restaurant will have a great sound system with energy where, as the night progresses, the lights get dimmed, and the music gets a little louder. We’ll have a great happy hour, and a great patio.