How We Met Our Chef – Part II – “7 Stages of A Relationship”

Posted: July 28, 2010 in The Sabi Story
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This is part II of the series  “How We Met Our Chef”,

see part I here


So now where were we…ah yes…

“I need to talk to Phillip Yi…how do I make that happen.”

Stage 1: Sabi gets its 1st date.

The importance of that phrase “how do I make that happen” went unnoticed for months.  But first, I should explain what happened in the rest of our first conversation with Phillip. We spoke briefly, explaining that we were seniors at Duke, and wanted a chance to talk with him about a business venture. He was busy at the restaurant that day, but he said he’d give us “five minutes” the next day around 4pm. 

Stage 2: Sabi gets its 1st crush.

We couldn’t sit still. We were beaming. It’s hard to put the feeling into words, but it’s one of the rare times you know everything just changed. We’ve been searching for that same feeling, a level of certainty that can only be verified in your gut, whether the subject is hiring a new team member, or finding the ideal first location, when you know, you know.

Stage 3: Sabi gets to 1st base.

The high of that moment began to wear off once we realized that it was now time to deliver.  Our conversation the next day was brief.  We offered to send him some materials in writing that would give him a better idea of what Sabi is all about, and we exchanged email addresses.

We created an executive summary, a two page document explaining the essentials of our venture. We were proud of it, and eagerly awaited his reply or phone call just moments after we pushed send.


A week passed.

…still nothing…

Stage 4 : Sabi gets clingy.

Trevor tried to call back multiple times, each time Phillip was “unavailable”.  We began to question if  Phillip was avoiding us, screening our calls.

Stage 5: Sabi gets blown off.

On the way home, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I called Phillip’s restaurant Sushi Central  and asked if he was… “available”, and to my surprise, he was.  I asked if he had a chance to look over our Executive Summary.

Phillip: Oh..yea, I did..


Phillip: I get it, so you guys are just making the Subway of sushi.

The way he phrased it so non-chalantly, just the Subway of Sushi.

It’s always been tough to describe what Sabi Sushi is. Analogies are dangerous, because people take them too literally. We want the style and simplicity of Apple. The freshness and healthiness of Subway. The  service and speed of Starbucks. The taste of Phillip Yi’s recipes… I had confidence we could accomplish the other pieces, but with Phillip blowing us off, we were in for a rough ride.
We finally conceded. A month had passed. We had gone five straight emails without a reply from Phillip. He had been nice enough to speak with us, entertain the idea of working with us, but in the end. He was 3000 miles away, and light years out of our league. We decided to stop emailing. In our last email, we played it coy, saying that we would send him our full business plan the next day, but never did.

Then one day, just when our lives were filled with tests and papers, I checked my mail in between classes and saw it.  One sentence.

Stage 7 : Sabi gets its groove back.


(Part III coming Friday..)

  1. […] Seven Stages of a Relationship : Sabi’s 1st Love […]

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