Today we’d like to introduce you to Duk Han, owner of Nozomi La Jolla -Serving Quality Japanese and Korean Fusion Since 1999

Can you walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today? 

To begin, I am a mama’s boy. When I was little, I was always in the kitchen because I loved to eat (still do, as you can see my belly) and my mother made the most delicious food. My mother started teaching me how to cook at a young age and I never missed a chance to help her around the kitchen. My family wasn’t well off financially so when I was of age, I immediately started working by selling street cart food that I made (using my mother’s recipe, of course). It wasn’t enough to sustain my family, so I pursued other jobs working as a construction worker, taxi driver, painter, auto mechanic and car salesman. My worst job is when I had to scrub other men in a Korean spa (Jimjilbang). After 17 different jobs, I was finally able to start my own restaurant business in 1999. I was so happy and proud of myself because I finally got to share my love for food and see others enjoy the dishes I created.

Tell us more about your business or what is it that you're known for?

At Nozomi, we strive to extend a sense of family to each and every one of our guests while serving quality Asian cuisine in a cozy atmosphere. We serve Japanese food with a Korean twist. I have a passion to create new dishes, especially sauces, and I am constantly trying to improve the taste. For example, it took me 10 years to perfect the Chirashi sauce, which has 14 ingredients. Not only did it take some time to figure out which ingredients made that rich flavor, but I learned different seasons affected the peppers that we used and the overall taste of the sauce. I enjoy experimenting and finding that perfect balance in food, and I get the most pleasure from seeing customers smile and enjoy the dishes I created. The two dishes we are most known for is the Chirashi Salad and Katsu Donburi. Chirashi Salad and Green Noodle are most special to me because I was able to create these dishes with my talented mother.

What are you most proud of when it comes to your work?

Aside from creating new dishes and seeing my customers smile when eating my food, I am most proud of how I made an impact on one of my customer’s life like my boy Mike (MikeFit). Mike was about 16 years old when we first met at my restaurant. I will be honest with you, he looked like a very serious guy, didn't say much and could eat a lot. But when I saw his eyes, I knew he was different. I could tell right away he was a good, genuine person. He came several times a week and even celebrated his 18th birthday with us. Then one day, he asked if I could sponsor him because he was going to compete in the 2009 Men’s Bodybuilding Championships. Even though the restaurant was not doing so well due to the recession at the time, I knew how much Mike loved our food and how important food is to an athlete, being a former baseball athlete myself. Also, he had the same eyes as me when I first started the restaurant – Eyes of hope and perseverance to fulfill one’s dream. So I decided to sponsor him and made him lots of sashimi every week. When I heard he won first place, my wife and I were so happy and proud, but we would feel the same way even if he didn't take first. Mike is a handsome, inspirational young man with big muscles and a heart of gold. I’ve known him for 15 years now and I can say confidently that he really appreciates every little thing in life and the people around him. From meeting Mike to seeing him enjoy our food after so many years, I am extremely happy and proud!

Were there any struggles or challenges along the way? How did you overcome it?

To be completely honest, there was an overwhelming number of struggles and challenges to overcome. I started from the bottom with nothing. But I had hope when I started this business, which is why we called the restaurant Nozomi. Nozomi means hope in Japanese. I can’t say I completely overcame the challenges, but I have reached many of my goals and dreams. I have four beautiful children, and Nozomi has been standing for over 20 years now. I am a lucky dad and chef!

What are your personal hobbies outside of your passion/work?

I love exploring nature, taking long walks, and gardening. I also love talking to people and meeting new people. All my kids always complain about how much I love to talk. When I’m not busy, you might catch me gardening at the restaurant or talking to people for hours.

Contact Info:




Address: 4150 Regents Park Row #190, La Jolla, CA 92037  


Suggest a Story! Created by Fitness Entrepreneur and Champion Athlete Mike Nguyen @mikepro_champion; MikeFit Motivation Online Magazine is meant to explore the personal journey of athletes, health experts, entrepreneurs, and community leaders on what drives them in life. Ultimately, we want our stories to motivate people to pursue their own passions in life the same way Mike and his guests has. If you would like to nominate someone or share their story, let us know by emailing or direct message our @mikefit_motivation instagram page.