Foreign Cutz

By: Gerald Stewart

The Black-Owned Businesses Abroad series is a recurring installment of interviews, photos, videos, promotions, and/or article contributions covering black entrepreneurs making their way in a society away from home. This article is spotlighting Foreign Cutz, a barber shop in Yokosuka Japan.

I went to Cordell’s shop, Foreign Cutz, for a haircut and beard trim. I’m happy with the result and the quality of his work is immediately recognizable. After my haircut, I chatted with Cordell and another customer while he cut the next person in line. This is a bit of his story from the talk we had:

What do you miss most after being in Japan for over ten years?
“Being from Memphis I would definitely have to say fried pork chops.”

Cordell reflected fondly on spending time in the kitchen back home. Also being from the South, I asked a bit more about my favorite food: southern BBQ. Cordell said he can actually barbecue a bit and also feels comfortable in a kitchen.

So what made you decide to open a barber shop, rather than a restaurant or anything else?
“Well I got into cooking later on, and cooking for myself is one thing but it’s different to sell it to other people.”

How did you get into cutting hair?
“I got one haircut a long time ago and it was awful. I got it fixed by my cousin and became really curious about how to do everything.”

You have a picture with Nelly on facebook, are there any other celebrities or notable people you’ve cut?
Cordell has cut Nelly, Fabo of D4L, Jussie Smollett and Bryshere Y. Gray from Empire, and Joey BadA$$.

What was it like working on them?
Cordell cut Nelly and members of his team in 2016. Nelly was personable and down-to-Earth.

Who was the most interesting person you cut?
Joey BadA$$ was the most interesting because he was “natural, real, and entertaining”.

Given your experience and clientele, what do you say to people who think the price is too high?

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bl-rvGwAhrA/?hl=en&taken-by=fadedu
ig: @fadedU
That picture really says it all- “Look at the equipment. All that stuff, it factors in, and as a barber, you have to value yourself.”

Another customer there, also from the US, agreed that the price is not unreasonable. “Quality is a big factor. For many people, hair is your safety net, and if your hair gets messed up, it changes your whole image.”

Cordell agreed and shared stories of people he had known personally still trying to get a discount for a first time or a list of other reasons. “What I don’t understand is- people won’t go to Walmart or the corner store asking for a discount, so why would you come to my shop and ask me?”

The value Cordell places on his eye for style and experience is justified in his work. Having lived in six different cities in Asia, including three in Japan, I can say going to Cordell gave me the best and easiest haircut I’ve gotten abroad. A big part of that is my own lack of command of the local language. However, even with solid translation and multiple example images, it can take other experienced barbers three or four visits to get my hair cut and styled to my liking. This is probably due to simple differences in style and trends, but the result is that it can take me a solid two months to get what I might otherwise call my ‘usual’. The day I went to see Cordell I wanted to see what he could do with little suggestion. So I told him that I usually like a relatively short fade but I was open to letting him work. When the chair turned around, I knew that was a good choice. One feature I didn’t expect was that Cordell saw something I didn’t know about: He shaved just a bit of the top of my moustache which resulted in a visible separation between my nose and my facial hair which actually made the hair look fuller than when it follows its own lines.

Can you share your top tips for healthy, stylish hair?
“In this environment, depending on who you are and your hair type, keep moisturized. For example with newly locked hair, it’s pretty easy to maintain but you have to keep it moisturized. For black people, wash about three times a week, not every day, and depending on style wrap it up at night.”

Cordell also said he liked the pomade he recently started using, that he used to style my hair. It gave my hair a finished look, but without being so hard that I couldn’t still run my hands through it. Cordell used the “White Lightning” product by Mason’s Pomade.

How often should people be getting their hair cut?
“Every two weeks.”

Are there any do’s and don’ts for haircut day?
“Please, wash your hair. And don’t come in with product in it. It can mess up the clippers and make the haircut take longer.”

For those people that don’t have the time or money to get cut that often, do you have any tips to make a haircut last?
Shorter cuts are obviously going to last longer, and be easier to style. On top of that, Cordell recommends steering away from ‘hard parts’ and designs if you’re on a budget or can’t come in for a fresh haircut regularly.

On the other hand, if someone has some spare time and money to spend on their appearance, are there any style choices you like to work with?
“I’m really into fades, drop fades, high n’ tight, I just think something about it looks good.” Cordell mentioned he also likes to do designs, especially those that are unique or have some personal interest to the customer. “I had a guy in here the other day that wanted an ‘A’ in a circle cut in like the name of the performer, Anarchy. Designs really let me work on technique and I’m always on youtube thinking about what I can try next.”

What has it been like running a business here?
Cordell arrived in 2007. He got out of the Navy in 2014 and said he felt unsure of what to do next. While considering his options of using his GI bill for further education and also considering different jobs, Cordell was having a hard time.

“I was working contract jobs and it was actually my wife’s idea to open a shop. I was mobile before opening this shop in November of 2017 and I was constantly running around to different places. I just remember one day I passed out. I guess I was dehydrated and I woke up in the hospital and the first thing I thought of was ‘Where’s my equipment? What time is it? I have to get to my next client.’ And the nurse looked at me and was like ‘you’re not going anywhere.’ My wife did a bunch of stuff for me preparing for this and I was just so grateful. The one thing I was worried about going from mobile to having a shop was ‘are my clients going to follow me?’”

Cordell said all but one or two of his clients did decide to come to his shop, and at least one of those exceptions started mentioning booking an appointment soon.

Have you noticed any big differences between your experiences and those of non-black expat business owners?
Cordell said that he hasn’t had any bad experiences in the shop or while he’s actually working.

“But outside of the shop I do have stuff that’s said get back to me, but I don’t let it bother me. For example a customer had someone ask who cut her hair and when she told the guy about me he said something like ‘oh I’m going to take all of his customers.’ But she just said ‘Yeah, good luck with that.’ And that’s what I think about it too.”

On the topic of entrepreneurship in general, Cordell said he has a contact who isn’t a Person of Color that is something of a mentor to him.

“He owns a chicken spot and some apartment buildings and other things. He gets cut here and he encourages me to diversify. Our businesses are different so there’s not a direct comparison. But one thing I remember he told me was to be like a spider -if one leg gets cut off, you should have other things going on so you still have more to rely on.”

Can you recommend any other resources, sites, or contacts for black expats?
Cordell mentioned that he is actually going to be participating in an episode of Raw Urban Mobile, a podcast about life in Japan.
Check out the show and look out for his episode at https://rump.podbean.com/

If you’d like to be a part of the BOBA series, leave a message in the contact section of the blog.

Follow Cordell on Facebook @Foreigncutz
Address:2 Chome−43 Yokosuka, Kanagawa,Japan
Phone number:070-2190-1361

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Cinnamon Pancakes with Glazed Pears

Since we arrived in China, I have been craving pancakes. Pancakes are hard to come by in China, so if you’re craving them, you have to make them at home. In my opinion, pancakes should be everywhere in the world, because they are sweet and scrumptious. I don’t eat or make them often, but when I do, I like to try new flavors.

Due to my limited knowledge of spices that are available in China, and ones that would go well with pancakes, I chose to use my favorite spice, cinnamon. Cinnamon is a very versatile spice, and it reminds me of Fall. In my opinion, cinnamon just adds positive notes to a dish.

So, why glazed pears for this dish instead of apples? Well, yesterday I went to the grocery store, and I was set on buying some “apples”. I don’t really eat apples here, because they are a little pricey. While at the grocery store, I saw some “apples” on sale for less than a dollar per kilo. Little did I know that they actually weren’t apples. They were Hosui pears. The pears were light in color, so I thought they were Golden Delicious apples. Anyway, I had to change my original recipe from ” Glazed Apples” to ” Glazed pears”. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. The pears added a flavor the was crisp and sweet.


Cinnamon Pancakes with Glazed Pears
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Cinnamon Pancakes with Glazed Pears
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Ingredients
Dry ingredients for pancakes
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Wet ingredients for pancakes
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
Glazed Pears
  • 1 hosui pear sliced
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 mandarin orange
Servings:
Instructions
Pancakes
  1. Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Then, add the yogurt, milk and egg to the dry mixture. Thoroughly mix these ingredients.
  3. To fry the pancakes, heat a frying pan on low heat. Add oil or butter, and 1/4 cup of pancake batter. Allow the pancakes to cook and repeat this process until all of the batter is used.
  4. Set the pancakes in a microwave or oven, without heat. This will allow the pancakes to stay warm.
Pears
  1. To prepare the pears, peel the skins and cut around the core of the pear. Thinly slice the pear and place them in a bowl.
  2. Coat the pears with half of the orange and the sesame oil.
  3. Heat a frying pan on medium heat, and add the butter. Add the pears and the brown sugar. Allow the pears to simmer for two-three minutes.
  4. Serve the pancakes and the glazed pears.
Recipe Notes

*** Make the pancakes before the pears. You want the pears to be hot when served***

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Vegan Taco “Meat”

Eringi mushrooms are a great alternative to meat. They have no flavor, but they fry well. For this recipe, I only used the stems and not the mushroom caps. You can use the whole mushroom, but I’ve found that the stem fries better than the caps. What I’ve been doing is removing the caps and using them for a different vegetarian recipe the next day.


Vegan Taco "Meat"
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Vegan Taco "Meat"
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Ingredients
  • 6-8 eringi mushrooms diced ( I used the stems and not the caps)
  • 2 tablespoons Frontier Co-op Taco Seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons grape seed oil
Servings:
Instructions
  1. First, mise en place your ingredients
  2. Next, place a medium-sized pan on medium heat. After about one minute, add the grape seed oil to the pan and swirl it around. It should coat the whole pan.
  3. Add the mushrooms, turn the heat to low and coat the mushrooms with the oil.
  4. Next, turn the heat to medium-high and sautee the mushrooms. Make sure to turn the mushrooms every thirty seconds until they are golden brown. Continue to stir the mushrooms every thirty seconds for five minutes.
  5. Once the mushrooms are golden brown, turn the heat to low and add the seasoning and salt. Coat the mushrooms with the seasoning and salt.
  6. Finally, turn the heat up high, add the lime juice and quickly stir the mushrooms for about ten seconds. Then, take them off of the heat.
Recipe Notes

Mise en place- prepping you ingredients in bowls before cooking

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T.A.T.K.C.S: Sauteed Chicken with a Lemon Caper Sauce

Ayyeee the first recipe! Okay, deciding which recipe to cook first made me anxious. I didn’t know where I wanted to start. Should it be chicken, red meat or vegetables? Should I bake something instead of using the stove top? These were the questions I asked myself. I decided to make something kind of simple and not very time consuming. I made sauteed chicken with a lemon caper sauce.

First of all, the dish was delicious, but it could have been better. I did a quick brine of the meat, but honestly I should have skipped the brining process. I was only able to brine the meat for fifteen minutes and it needed more time. I did not cut everything before hand so my mise en place was a mise en mess. The cookbook says that you should prep your ingredients ahead of time in order to cook the meal efficiently and to avoid mishaps. I am usually pretty good about this, but it’s a little difficult when you have limited space and a limited amount of prep bowls. So, I made a note to myself to get more bowls.

Some other things that I learned are reading while cooking is difficult and buying fresh is necessary. I had to throw away a whole pack of chicken, and it was only two days old. I was so upset.

Anyways, check out this cool little video I made while cooking. You might be able to see how frustrated I got. Bye!

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Learning How to Cook…Again

Ugh, cooking has been a little difficult for me over the past month. It was partially due to changes in my schedule and not knowing what to cook. Have you experienced this? Don’t get me wrong, I love to cook. I love trying new recipes and experimenting with old ones, but this past month has been full of recipes that were just okay. I had some good vegan recipes, such as my vegan taco bowls that I need to post the recipe for, but I’ve had some not so good recipes too. I’ve been a little afraid to fail and show my cooking failures.

Last week, I posted on my Instagram that I wold cook through The America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School cookbook. I’ve never really used a cookbook. I made a few French recipes from a cookbook that my boyfriend bought me when I was in high school, but that’s about it. To me, cookbooks are scary. I don’t know how to use them properly. It’s like reading an encyclopedia.

I chose this cookbook because I liked how technical it was. I am good at cutting vegetables and fruits. Seasoning meat doesn’t come naturally to me, but I’ve found a few good mixtures that work well. I always salt my food and add fresh herbs when needed. However, I’m not the best at layering flavors and knowing what works on the technical side of cooking. It’s something that I have to learn how to do. I’ve been avoiding it for a while now, and I wish I would’ve started earlier but it’s okay.

All of this to say, I will be posting about these recipes I’ve tried from The America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School cookbook. Some will be successful and some won’t, but that’s okay. Let’s see how this goes!

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