Born in Germany. Graduate of The Open University: Regent's College of London. Co-owner of Sumosan international chain of Japanese restaurants founded by her father Alexander Volkov and Moscow chain Buba by Sumosan. Opens restaurant projects around the world.

People often ask me why the food at Sumosan is more delicious than anywhere else. And I always say that it’s because everything has been prepared with love. You cannot do anything without love. For me, it’s natural. I believe that our objective is to make the lives of every visitor a little bit better. Any person that came to Sumosan must leave it satisfied. And I’m pretty good at this. I don’t even think about how this works. I like to meet new people, like to see the guests happy. Sometimes I ask them: “What didn’t you like?” And they look at me surprised. So, I have to explain: “This is not a trick, this is not a ritual question. I simply want to know what you didn’t like so that we can remedy that.” When people tell me: “Everything’s fine,” that’s nice to hear, but it’s not interesting to me, because I want to understand what can be improved so that people enjoy their time in our restaurant even more. So, our chef Bubker is in charge of the food, Alexander, my sister’s husband, is in charge of the finances, and I am in charge of warmth. And that’s what I teach my team. And the guests feel our love and value it as much as the food. After all, there are many places where you can get delicious food. It’s very important for me to get feedback. I’m very happy when I see that the guest who came for dinner two days ago is here for lunch today. Or when a gourmand notes that he can’t tell the difference between food in Tokyo and our food. I’m happy when the regular guests write to me to say that Sumosan is their home away from home. That’s what I’m striving for! My goal is to create such atmosphere that people would want to come back, would feel comfortable here. My strong suit is radiating warmth and surrounding the guests with it, giving people love and the feeling of home away from home. I do this very well. It must be my father’s trait in me. Of course, I’m not even close to being like him, because he was a genius, a unique man. My dad opened the first Sumosan in Moscow in 1997. It is already an institution. After all, 26 years is a respectable age for a restaurant. But you have to move forward. It’s important to improve oneself. Especially now when there’s so much interesting stuff in the world in terms of gastronomy. This is why in August of 2023 we brought all the chefs from all Sumosan restaurants to Dubai — and for two weeks they worked together on developing new dishes and updating the menu. Research and development of sorts. And it was very successful — the guests are ecstatic about the dishes that the chefs created. My father never stopped. He opened his first restaurant and found his life’s passion at the age of 40. Of course, 40 is the new 30 today, but dad forged his own path quite late. I did it much earlier, at the age of 23. Back when I was still at the university, I said that my dream is to open a restaurant in the city that I love, in London. And my dad supported me. We opened Sumosan in London in 2002, when there was no Novikov there, or no one else from Russia. I was young and bold. When you put a four-year-old on skis, they don’t have a sense of fear. I guess at 23 I also lacked this sense of fear. Today, at my age, I wouldn’t dare open my first restaurant. But at 23 I was very brave. It was like swimming against the current. And a couple of years later Sumosan was named among London’s best restaurants. Not Japanese restaurants, all restaurants. I was born in Germany and never lived in Russia. When my dad was dying, I already had my London restaurant, and I told him: “Don’t worry, I’ll preserve everything. And Moscow restaurants as well.” My father asked me: “Are you sure, darling? Do you understand what you are undertaking?” And I said: “I do” — although at that moment I understood nothing. Before that, I’ve only been to Russia a couple of times — and suddenly found myself in Moscow. My sister and her husband did not work with me at that time, and I found myself alone with all these restaurants in a man’s world, because there were no female restaurateurs at that time. And it was a situation of “eggs teaching the hen”: some foreign child is suddenly trying to teach grown-up men about life — and they are not even their parents. It was very difficult even though I was already successful in London. I had to fight for respect because initially nobody took me seriously. But that changed quickly because I knew what i was doing. And my stubborness helped. I have to get it done, and that’s that!

Guide restaurants with Janina Volkova participation