Written By – Erica Matsui
I had the privilege to have an interview with the lovely co-founder of Local Koji Co. based in Toronto, Wakaba Hoshino.
1. Where are you from and what is your background?
I was born in Ouji, Tokyo, but most of my life I spent in Saitama city (former Urawa) in Saitama prefecture. My dad used to work as a French chef at the Siba Park Hotel in Tokyo. When I was in Grade 1, he opened his own restaurant. Currently, he is semi-retired and occasionally teaches cooking at a nearby community center. When I was young, my family moved to live with my grandparents who were farmers, so thankfully I was able to grow by eating the rice and vegetables that they made.
After graduating from college, I came to Canada to learn English. After that, I went to Seneca College and worked as a fashion designer for 10 years until the birth of my second child. For 10 years, I dedicated my time at home. I started Local Koji Co. with Aoi Yoshida, as I simultaneously returned to school studying social work at York University.
2. Why did you start creating your products?
After I had my son (first baby), I started to reconnect with my Japanese roots. I met so many Japanese moms here. I learned a lot from them about safe nutritious food, and I became more conscious about sustainable food and the environment. Making miso is not hard. It just takes a long time and needs some nurturing and patience. It made me realize that many people used to make their own stuff (miso, bread, wine, tomato sauces, pickles, etc.), but we are so busy living everyday life. I did not have any time to make my own miso when I was working full time and taking care of children. I thought it would be nice to offer homemade miso which is made from simple ingredients that you know what they are.
3. What is special about them?
We are trying to be more health and environmentally conscious.
We try to resource local and non-GMO ingredients. I am working on looking for Ontario farmers that I can get ingredients from, so that customers have a clear picture of where the ingredients come from and support local farmers.
4. How is life in Canada?
As much as I miss living in Japan, I love living here. It opens up my world to many things that I would never try (making miso) and being open to different cultures, and makes me humble to learn.
5. How has COVID-19 affected your business?
I mostly sell my products at events. There are no events I can attend right now(for a good reason), and I am not really good at advertising on social media. I really feel the great pain many small local businesses are experiencing, and COVID-19 greatly affects my business. However, I am grateful that people are reaching out to get my products and helping each other to promote the business, especially in the food industries. We are still uncertain about the future, but I still want to keep making my miso and Koji products because I know people want to have sustainable food more than ever.
This is the golden sidekick for rice or bread. It makes it impossible to put your chopsticks or whichever utensil you are using. The smooth miso and flavorful green onion are the perfect combo and is a Japanese staple in the pantry. Local Koji Co introduces some alternative ways to use this negimiso on their Facebook page. Mouth watering combinations such as sandwiches, riceballs, and salads. Go check this out!
Amazake From Local Koji Co
Imagine a blistering hot day that is humid and relentless. Amazake is the classic drink to quench your thirst and refresh your body with the delicate sweetness. This drink is made of koji and rice which is what Local Koji Co specialize in, making this drink no-doubt a must-try this summer.
Miso Sake Cake From Local Koji Co
These cakes are truly one-of-a-kind, and really can’t be found anywhere else. This sweet cake has the tang of miso which is such a unique flavor for a cake. Inside there’s sweet creamy red bean paste to enhance the intricate flavor of the cake.