More than a decade ago, Reika Alexander faced a dilemma: The career path she’d dreamed of since she was a teenager was suddenly on thin ice. Since the age of 15, Alexander had been part of a band, spent her time playing funk and R&B music across venues in Japan, and moved to London to play jazz piano. But, then, Alexander found herself having to go back to Japan when her visa expired. Suddenly, her musical network seemed to vanish. Alexander says she felt torn about what lay ahead. “I was very upset and not doing much for a few weeks, I was just in a very dark place,” she said. That’s when her brother, in jest, suggested she open her own restaurant.
“He told me that I couldn’t stay upset, always sitting alone in my room without a job,” Alexander said. “He suggested opening a restaurant in New York City. He was just joking at the time, but the next day I got a ticket and flew out to New York.”
Fast-forward 14 years, and Reika Alexander is an acclaimed New York and Los Angeles restaurateur. EN Japanese Brasserie (ENJB) has become a mainstay in the West Village and ENJB has garnered attention from the likes of Martha Stewart, Alexander Wang, and even Questlove. In fact, Questlove designed the playlist for Alexander’s newest restaurant in Los Angeles, Chateau Hanare (which is located on the famed Chateau Marmont property). “I really just want to expose Americans to all the wonderful things about Japanese culture,” Alexander said.
Ahead, Reika Alexander shares the words and the self-care practices that help her power through work.
“Stick with who you really are.”
This advice comes from my grandparents who were so hard working. It’s hard to stick with yourself, especially when you hear so many things from different people. You are hearing everyone’s opinions, but it is up to you to make all the decisions yourself, and at the end of the day you are going to be responsible for what happens. It’s important to constantly remind yourself of that.
I have very sensitive skin so I’m trying to give it a break when I go to bed. In the morning I use regular sun screen. I try to let my skin breathe at night and don’t use any products. I use chamomile oil every night when I take my makeup off. I try to keep it simple. I was using coconut oil for a bit, but I met someone in Tokyo who suggested chamomile oil because it calms your skin down.
Can’t Miss Podcast
Anything NPR. My schedule is so busy, it’s how I catch up on on everything.
My favorite fashion splurge
Currently Reading + Listening To
I’m actually listening to an old-school album by Minnie Riperton. Right now, I’m currently reading Head Strong by Dave Asprey. I’m learning a lot about how to efficiently use your brain.
I try to meditate every morning. Sometimes it’s difficult to do every single day, but I try to push myself to allow time for it. I went to India and learned how to do Shambhavi Mahamudra, that is the meditation I practice. It’s a combination of mediation and yoga and it really clears my head for the day.
Secret Weapon for Fab Hair
Oribe shampoo and conditioner. I love the scent so much, and it really keeps my hair healthy.
Go-to pair of shoes
My Gucci Sneakers. I wear them almost every day! I can’t find the exact ones I have but they look similar to the pair above.
My favorite Instagram post
I actually don’t really use Instagram. I am too busy!