The Atelier Delphine woman: Naoko Takei Moore

Learn about Naoko and her story.

As a native of Tokyo in Japan, Naoko has been living in Los Angeles, California since 2001.

Her journey started with just one donabe, the Kamado-san rice cooker handmade by Nagatani-en (established in 1832) in Iga, Japan. She introduced this amazing Iga-yaki donabe to the US on August 27, 2008. She started importing a few pieces of Kamado-san at a time in 2008, building a website herself just to sell one product out of her house in LA. Without any advertisement, everything grew organically just by word of mouth and cooking classes in her tiny home kitchen. In 2015, she published a book, DONABE (Ten Speed Press), the first English language book dedicated to the subject. Naoko is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Program at California School of Culinary Arts and also has a Wine Expert certificate by the Japan Sommelier Association.

On October 10, 2017, her first brick-and-mortar shop, TOIRO, opened its doors in West Hollywood, CA. The shop features many different kinds of authentic donabe and a wide variety of artisanal tools, tableware, and food items personally selected by Naoko from all over Japan. They also offer cooking classes and events. TOIRO's website has also grown to offer the same wide selection of products plus recipes for donabe and Japanese home-style dishes. TOIRO is the official US representative of Nagatani-en, and they are committed to bring many other hand-selected artisanal products from all over Japan.

I first met Naoko through my husband, photographer Yoshihiro Makino, when he took photos for the opening of Naoko’s store in 2017. I have a few donabe from her shop myself, and love stopping by her shop when I am in the area. Since then, we have shared many good meals and celebrated life events together - usually over lots of amazing food and wine. She has supported Atelier Delphine over the years (even wearing our sweater for press images when releasing her cookbook!) and I am excited to share a little bit of her story: a snippet of our conversation below, and styles worn by her from 24 PS and 24PF.

Atelier Delphine: Can you introduce yourself to our audience? How do you describe yourself? 

Naoko Takei Moore: Hello! This is Naoko Takei Moore and I'm also known as "Mrs. Donabe". I run a business/ shop called TOIRO, where I offer a wide variety of artisanal donabe (Japanese clay pot), kitchenware and tableware from all over Japan. I'm also a cookbook author and published the DONABE Cookbook (Ten Speed Press) in 2015. My mission is to spread the joy of donabe cooking to people.

AD: I want to ask about your path from moving from Japan to here - why LA, why the US? Did you go somewhere else first and decide to settle in LA? If you can chronologically recall: how did you become a sommelier, how was Le Cordon Bleu, and did you have a dream to become a chef or work in this industry when you were very young?

NTM: I always loved the cultural diversity of LA and also its entertainment aspect (I'm from the music industry in Tokyo), so it was quite natural to choose LA as the place to move to. I have never aspired to become a chef or work in a restaurant industry. I just love cooking and love sharing the joy of cooking and that's what I still do. I think I always just follow my passion ... without thinking about consequences! Haha. And so, since I love wine, that's why I studied it and became a certified wine expert by the Japan Sommelier Association in 2000. I know I have been through hardships but can't really remember too well, honestly. I'm more focused on just fulfilling my passion and mission.

AD: Wow I had no idea that you had never dreamt about becoming a chef, because your cooking and meals are always next level! I am always dreaming about you opening a restaurant in LA :) 

TOIRO: 1257 N La Brea Ave. West Hollywood, CA 90038

AD: Can I tell the audience that I met through my husband, photographer Yoshihiro Makino, who took your TOIRO store photos when you opened in 2017? Ever since meeting, we have become so close. Everyday I am so appreciative that you are my friend - we do a lot of dinner feasts at our home, and sophisticated ~Naoko dinners~ at your home, and we eat out some exotic food together now and then!

NTM: Of course! I'm so honored and lucky to have met you and Yoshi and become friends!

AD: What’s the goal for Toiro and yourself? 

NTM: I would love to see donabe become a staple item in every house in the US. I think it's slowly getting there!

AD: 100%. Some houses Yoshi photographed in LA - the Bonnie Hill Residence by Standard Architecture (right) and the Rustic Canyon House by Talbot McLanahan, Architect (below) embrace the Donabes, and they are passionate about collecting and learning more about it. That's amazing!

AD: Anyone that you look to for styling and philosophy inspiration? Celebrites, friends, or fictional characters are fine!

NTM: Diana Ross. Besides her exceptional talent and success as an artist, her fearless approach to fashion has inspired generations of women. I also admire her for her advocacy for empowerment, unity, and love through her music and activism. She's a true icon.

AD: What are your 3 most important things in life?

NTM: Love. Good food. Health.

AD: Love it. Your skin is flawless, from jogging in Runyon Canyon!(Link of runyon canyon

AD: Can you share an easy donabe recipe for lazy people like myself? Maybe something intuitive, since I am not a great cook by the way!

NTM: Of course! Nabeyaki Udon is a super easy single serving one pot donabe dish made in a small donabe. This is a very popular and rustic Japanese comfort dish. Here's the recipe. You can omit or change toppings to your liking - I sometimes just add what I find in my fridge :)

AD: Can you share a bit about your book(s) and what they're about? 

NTM: I published a cookbook titled DONABE in 2015. This book is all about donabe, its history, craftsmanship, lifestyle, and recipes. It took me years to complete the book, and I'm so happy to say that after almost 10 years of its initial release the book is still selling so strong and spreading to wider audience! Currently, I am working on a children's book and it's titled A Very Asian Guide to Japanese Food (to be published during this year by Gloo Books). I've always wanted to write a children's book, so it's my dream come true!

AD: A children’s book sounds so exciting! How did it start?

NTM: Yes, the publisher reached out to me. The book is about Japanese food but it's not a recipe book. It's a guide, and we will include a couple of easy recipes for kids and parents can try together :) I tried to make it a fun read not just for kids but for adults who want to learn about Japanese food, too! The publishing date is TBD, and it's still in the works, so there is no material to share yet ... please stay tuned!

AD: Anything else you want to express, say, announce to our AD audience? Any works in progress, etc?

NTM: I can relate fashion and cooking in many ways. You can find creativity in and also express personality from them. They inspire me to stay healthy and look and feel nice about myself. 

AD: I still remember you celebrated my birthday with a bottle of wine that you expressed was “vulnerable and fearless” - and that wine tasted exactly that way! I took it as such a compliment and am still indulging in it. To me, it is all about the soul. Cooking is an expression for you - much more than words, probably. To me, art, poetry, and my clothing express me much more than words. We are both immigrants here in LA and our English is not perfect, but we know we can communicate through this very deep, soulful level.