Cancer researcher turned sushi restaurateur Randy Musterer has been named one of the Silicon Valley Organization’s Distinguished Businesses of the Year.
For the sixth year, the organization is recognizing business leaders from its 1,400 members who contribute to the Silicon Valley community through charitable work, donations or fundraising. Musterer’s Sushi Confidential and other award recipients were honored at a celebration held April 20 at the San Jose Marriott.
“Winning this was a complete shock,” Musterer, 43, says. “It was never expected, but I’m happy to have recognition for the work Sushi Confidential does for the common good of the community.”
Musterer owns two locations, one downtown at 247 E. Campbell Ave. that opened in 2012 and another at 31 N. Market St. in downtown San Jose that opened last year.
“I never sat down and designed this path I took,” Musterer says regarding his transformation from biotech researcher to restaurateur.
Musterer found his passion for sushi while working on fishing boats in his hometown of San Diego during his teen years and on summer breaks there while attending Cal Poly San Louis Obispo.
“While I was working on boats, I was introduced to some sushi chefs,” Musterer says. “I didn’t know they were sushi chefs at the time. They were eating raw fish off the cutting board and I was like, ‘What are you doing?’”
Once he acquired a taste for sushi himself, he learned how to prepare it after realizing his tight budget as a college student would not allow for regular restaurant trips.
Learning to prepare sushi took quite a bit of practice and trial and error, he recalls.
“This was before you could Google and look on YouTube,” Musterer says.
After a few attempts, he began hosting small sushi-centric dinners for his friends and college roommates.
“My roommates liked it, and then they started inviting their friends over,” he says.
After graduating, Musterer began his career in the Bay Area as a cancer researcher for a biochemical company but worked part time at a sushi restaurant. He says he learned and improved his sushi-prepping craft from chefs in the restaurants. This led to him hosting what he called “underground” sushi parties for people.
Soon after Musterer made the decision to pursue his passion for food and quit his 17-year career as a cancer researcher.
“It’s a very introverted and task-oriented environment,” Musterer says of his time in the biotech industry. “I found an outlet to be creative. I followed my passion.”
Musterer enjoys chatting with customers and building a relationship with them by getting to know what appeals to their palate.
“When I was in the biotech field, every day I was doing something for society. I was trying to help find the cure for cancer,” Musterer says. “When I gave that up and opened up a sushi restaurant, I lacked this internal purpose. Sure, I was following my passion, but I was missing something.”
He adds that he gives back to the community in any way that he can. When heavy rain resulted in some San Jose homes being flooded, leaving the occupants homeless, Musterer and his Sushi Confidential team donated 100 meals to the Seven Trees Community Center.
The Silicon Valley Organization, formerly known as the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce, is an organization focused on business networking, advocacy and economic development. The organization represents nearly 1,400 employers and 300,000 employees throughout the greater Silicon Valley.
Other award winners were Distinguished Business Leader Bert George of Joseph Wines in Willow Glen and Businesswoman of the Year Laura Lee of Orchard Supply Hardware. Mike Blach of Blach construction in San Jose was named Businessman of the Year. Bay Area Tutoring in Milpitas received Nonprofit of the Year. Entering the Business Hall of Fame this year is B.T. Mancini, headquartered in Milpitas.