Julie Bath has spent the last thirty years working in many different aspects of the beverage and hospitality industry, from cookinJulie Bath has spent the last thirty years working in many different aspects of the beverage and hospitality industry—including cooking professionally, managing a million-dollar catering operation, leading hospitality and marketing at wineries, and importing wine. She originally met Ken Tominaga at Hana Restaurant and Cindy Pawlcyn’s Go Fish, and immediately became a fan of his culinary expertise and appreciation of sake. Julie’s experience in importing wine enabled the two of them to create Sake Tengoku, a portfolio of high quality, artisanal sakes.
Julie passed her Sake Professional Course in 2014 and WSET Level 3 Advanced Sake Course in 2015, and is actively involved in educational trainings for accounts and distributors throughout the US. Her love of sake grows each day, and she spends much of her time studying and reading to increase her knowledge of this niche in the beverage industry.
Julie manages all aspects of the business—including sales, shipping and compliance, as well as developing the appropriate distribution partners in the US. Although the day-to-day operations keep her plate full—Julie manages to spend time in Japan, personally visiting the partner-breweries throughout the country, and gaining a deeper understanding of the long histories, traditions, stories and styles of the wonderful producers in the portfolio. As recently as March of 2019, Julie spent full days with each of her six family-owned breweries located in the prefectures of Fukushima, Tochigi, Gunma and Niigata. She was able to experience first-hand the process of brewing, and see the labor and celebration of the season.
During 2020, Julie recognized the need for lovers of sake to be able to enjoy it at home, and expanded the Sake Tengoku website to enable online purchases.
Julie continues to explore new potential brewery partners and welcomes inquiries or referrals. She can be reached at Julie@saketengoku.com.
Jessica Di Fede
Director of Sales & Marketing
Jessica Di Fede was born and raised in Orange County, California. She ventured into the restaurant world at the age of 16, and loved it from the beginning. After a few years of working her way up through various positions, she became a server, and her father—ever the wine lover—began to teach her about food and wine pairing, the delight of the combination done well, and the accompanying power of the upsell. After a few years of restaurant work, she landed in college in Santa Barbara, where she was far more enthralled in her work in restaurants and local wineries than her chosen emphasis of Political Science at school. Realizing this, Jessica moved up to wine country, and finished her degree at Sonoma State University, receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Business, with an emphasis in Wine Business.
During her latter years in school in Sonoma, Jessica worked as a wine assistant at El Dorado Kitchen in Sonoma. During that time, she studied for exams through the Court of Master Sommeliers, and received Certification as a Sommelier. Shortly after, she landed a position as a Sommelier for Thomas Keller at Bouchon Bistro, where she’d eventually be promoted to Head Sommelier. After a couple years at Bouchon, Jessica made the transition into management, and became Assistant General Manager-Beverage Director at Thomas Keller’s ad hoc. Throughout these years, she was able to travel internationally to pursue food and wine studies abroad—learning through experience in each place.
In May of 2016, Jessica and her fiance (and eventual-husband), Curtis Di Fede, opened Miminashi, a Japanese-style izakaya in the heart of downtown Napa. The restaurant served robatayaki and izakaya staples in a warm, convivial environment, and was a favorite for many locals and industry folks in the community. Over the 4.5 years of being open, Jessica wore many hats-including as Beverage Director, emphasizing an internationally-focused wine list and plentiful sake program, as well as overseeing operations alongside Curtis, and operating as General Manager for the team and on the floor. The restaurant closed at the end of 2020 in the midst of the pandemic. Jessica joined our team in early 2021, and we’ve been thrilled to utilize her knowledge of and passion for sake in her role in marketing, education and sales. In her down time, you can find Jessica cooking, spending time outdoors with her dogs, heading to the beach with Curtis, and scuba diving.
Chef Ken Tominaga grew up in Tokyo, Japan, immersed in a wonderful and plentiful culture of great food and dining. As he trained to become a Sushi chef, his understanding and care for sake and it’s place alongside food flourished.
After eventually moving to Northern California and establishing his heralded Hana Restaurant in Rohnert Park, Ken realized that some of the sake producers he loved most in Japan were not exported to the United States. Eventually, Sake Tengoku (literally: “sake heaven”) was created in order to showcase these high quality, small production and family-owned producers, with Julie Bath at the helm.
Ken is known as a true master with an impeccable palate. He travels back to Japan bi-annually to visit family and friends, taste and search for great sake, and eat and drink to his heart’s delight. He’s now involved in several restaurants, including PABU Izakaya and Ramen Bar—a partnership with celebrated chef and founder of the Mina Group, Michael Mina—located in San Francisco. He also consults with Chef-Owner Dustin Valette at The Matheson in downtown Healdsburg. Hana Restaurant has now been open, celebrated and successful for over 30 years.
Tominaga sees his restaurants as a forum in which he can continue to refine his cuisine, flex creativity, and showcase his finely honed skills. “I put my spirit into the dishes I create,” he says about his pursuit of sushi perfection. “I adjust myself to the sushi I make each day—the temperature, the rice, how to slice the fish—because the ingredients I work with will always be a little bit different.”