View Full Version : Sushi Chef Training

06-23-2011, 12:31 PM
I have a question of a somewhat more delicate nature. Whenever someone goes into a sushi bar, I would imagine they would have certain expectations about the man preparing their food--namely that he is a Japanese expert in his craft. So my question is this: can someone of Caucasian descent find decent--albeit entry level--employment in sushi?

The reason I ask is that I am looking to specialize in seafood over my apprenticing portion of my career. I would like to spend at least some time learning the art of sushi preparation. I've looked into a school that does an accelerated program in California but I wanted to make sure I could find some employment after graduating to acquire field experience before going back to the brigade system and hot kitchens. Does anyone have any thoughts on this subject?

If this question appears rude/naive to anyone, I would like to note that it is not my intention to step on any toes.

06-23-2011, 02:12 PM
In today's schooling system I'd avoid anything "accelerated" just cause most chef's don't trust any school they have not been to themselves. CA has alot of big name schools that have gone down the crapper in the past 10 years. Do your research on post graduates from the schools and see if the grads got good hiring scores from their choice of schools. While I learned allot of good info from my school, not one chef gave a damn that I had a degree, I was treated as a walkin with "zero" experience even though I worked in the field for years.

Eamon Burke
06-23-2011, 03:34 PM
I'm white. I was a sushi chef for over a year.

Go find a sushi bar with amazing food, and a complete ******* of a manager, and miserable employees. I had that job because I put up with things nobody else would.

Most sushi chefs aren't going to care about your program certificate, and might even tell you everything you know is wrong anyways. French chefs are nothing compared to old Itamaes.

06-23-2011, 03:54 PM
Do you want to work straight away on the front?
I think when you really want to make sushi start with washing rice for about 5 years.
Then you move to preparaton of whole fish and maybe in next 5 years youll get the skill youre after.
But then its your profession already and you forgot all other kitchen skills youve once possesed.
If you just want to know how to make sushi, but not to work with it for living, get the school. I dont like schools in this industry but in this case you propably can get basics...

Alternatively, find some renowned sushi chef, sharpen his knives and instead of pay get lessons. :D

06-23-2011, 04:28 PM
One of my sushi chefs went to CSA (California Sushi Academy) and I'm pretty sure he started without knowing anything. He has good knowledge of a lot of stuff but is still working on his skills. School is nice but I don't think many sushi chefs will care much about that. Having a school like that under your belt is at least some kind of ammo to try and get yourself a job. It is tough to just walk into a sushi bar and as to be trained to become a chef.

And I don't know any sushi chefs that would let some random dude sharpen their knives. I know that there is no way in hell I would let anyone sharpen mine (short of some of the lunatics around these parts)

06-23-2011, 04:37 PM
Ya, you're probably gonna have to apprentice for a few years before any reputable sushi restaurant will let you work the front line,regardless of a culinary degree or your race.

06-23-2011, 04:40 PM
When I wanted to gain trust and respect at sharpening, I would go to sushi bar and just leave my yanagi with the chef for trial shift. And I would say that knife is to get used.
[of course, every country have its specifics]
After all cooking and sharpening involves lots of trust.
Your customers trust you, that youre not going to food poison them or piss in the soup - even by not washing your hands often enough.
Chef have to trust you that you will take care of his possesion well.
Same same but different

06-23-2011, 07:50 PM
Yeah but what I'm saying is that I would never give my knife to a customer or whatever to sharpen even if he told me he could sharpen it.

06-23-2011, 10:02 PM
I'm pretty sure that by the time your skills start to take off, there will be a lot of new trendy sushi spots opening up. We have a very popular "California Rock'n Sushi" spot here. For your culinary school, as an ex-graduate, many who come out of school will not see success, much less make a career out of it.

I'm one who promotes schooling to those passionate about this field, but as one wise man once said "if you are not good enough without it, you will never be good enough with it" :cool2:

06-24-2011, 11:22 AM
Did you just quote Cool Runnings?

I guess at this stage I'm really just beginning my career and I'm trying to decide how I should branch out. But the one thing that seems certain: I love cutlery, seafood, and meticulous technique. Therefore it sounds like a stint in sushi--which I freaking love--would be right up my alley. I would even consider making a career out of it, if I could be sure that a career in the field would be wise. This is also assuming that I possess the capacity to adapt to the skills. It just seems like I spend all my downtime researching sushi, raw fish preparations, and knife technique waaay more than I spend time researching anything else.

In the meantime, I sincerely appreciate the advice y'all have provided. It means a lot to have access to individuals more experienced than myself who I can call upon for friendly advice.

06-24-2011, 12:21 PM
Yeah but what I'm saying is that I would never give my knife to a customer or whatever to sharpen even if he told me he could sharpen it.

What if he offered a knife of equal or greater quality as collateral? What's funny is I'd never loan one of my nicer blades to a pro (with the exception of a few knuts). Most of them don't seem to know or care about keeping their tools in good shape.

06-24-2011, 03:55 PM
Exactly what I'm saying TK. Just because you are a pro does not mean you know what you are doing. For example I would never let anyone sharpen my Shigefusa yanagi. Even another sushi chef because they probably do it differently and not how I like it. If a customer offered a knife as collateral it would help but I don't think I could really do it. The only things I could see letting a random person borrow are knives that I don't really care much about anyway. Like Kanemasa or cheapo KU knives..

Now if one of you guys walked into my bar and had something that compared to what I'm using, then we could talk...

06-24-2011, 04:00 PM
Janus, if you will become an artist at what youre doing, the job will find you.
Just follow what interests you and if youre still young and have a chance go to Japan or just work for free in some quality establishment. Its always good way to promote yourself and gain knowledge along with friends.
If youre at chefs college now, dont drink beer at your weekends, go to work :D

TK, my knife is always in nicer condition than the one im about to pick up. Quality? I personally think not tool make you specialist but skill gained through hours involved. Its against my faith to overpay for item that i couldnt use properly. Like some people here do, believing fancy bigbuck will help their karma

06-24-2011, 04:02 PM
that compared to what I'm using, then we could talk...

And what would you compare exactly?
Money spent?
Or performance?

06-24-2011, 04:14 PM
I mean that theoretically, if someone wanted to borrow a Nenox and offered me a Henckles 5star I would have to politely decline.

Janus, it seems like you are interested and that reminds me of how I am. I was very interested in sushi and gravitated towards it. I knew the basics and bluffed my way into getting a job at a sushi bar and learned on the fly. If you want it, you can make it happen.

06-24-2011, 04:27 PM
OK :) I hope my previous post didnt sound like Im henckels fan :D
Talking of Nenox, I had a chance to work on one I got from pro sushi master and it was killed. And I agree that many of them dont get interested in knives way I do

What I meant is that I would never ask chef to look at logo, I would make him cut some stuff :)

06-24-2011, 04:45 PM
Some of the sushi chefs I have worked with have expensive knives that are all beat to hell. Broken tips and chipped up edges and all kinda stuff. Also, many of them only sharpen on a 1kish grish stone.

06-24-2011, 05:04 PM
Yeah, in where I am now chefs off all cuisines have the same problem, dull destroyed knives, and because stones are not easily obtainable nor cheap, they just use them until its freaking no edge at all. Then they chuck it in drawer and buy new one.

06-24-2011, 05:15 PM
Can you afford to work a couple days a week for a few hours as an unpaid intern? At my job we have 2 interns that come after school, help us with prep, and we try to show them new stuff whenever we can. Previous unpaid interns have been given paying jobs, and one worked his way all the way up the line to sous chef and recently left to run his own kitchen. Not bad considering his total time with us was about 3 years.

I would type up a resume that includes an objective, an explanation of your culinary program/education, brief work history if you have worked in any pro kitchens before, and a couple references from teachers or chefs. In the objective I would talk about your desire to learn about sushi, your love of seafood, meticulous technique, etc. Also state the type of job you want, aka a chance to work with experienced sushi chefs, learn from them, and help them out in any way you can.

This might be the best shot you have at getting your foot in the door. Just go any of the places near you that you would be willing to work at and apply. I know my culinary school got out early in the second half of the program so that we could go to jobs or intern at places. Two or three days a week for a few hours isn't that big of a commitment. The more you prove yourself, the more tasks you will be given and the more you will learn and be allowed to do. Even if all you learn how to do is make great rice and butcher some fish it will be a great experience. And like previously posted, when a new place opens up that isn't so inclusive, you should easily be able to get a paying job.

If they don't let you roll, just find a local asian super market, buy some nori wraps, a couple sushi mats, and a 10lb bag of rice. Get some cucumbers, practice your knife skills, make some rice, and just keep rolling. Even if you throw everything away, it's only going to cost you $20 for everything, but you will be a much better roller when you are done. And if you get the chance to make some rolls at work, you will already have some skill.

Eamon Burke
06-24-2011, 08:57 PM
Yeah, I'd learn to make california rolls and perfect nigiri at home, then you will be a much easier first day. They'll just make you the guy making california rolls, fried shrimp rolls, the occasional ebi sushi and tuna towers in a paper cup all night. That was pretty much my first 3 months.

06-24-2011, 10:48 PM
+1 to all of that. The only way to learn is to get your hands wet.

06-25-2011, 04:36 AM
When I came to live in this city, for three months I was having only one full time job, and my wife wasnt here yet.
So I decided Im going to go and work for free in the citys best restaurant, though Im not apprentice anymore, I think you can learn something everywhere.
They didnt have space enough in the kitchen for me, so I ended up deboning spanish hams for other company. And I loved it and it teached me a great lot!

06-25-2011, 08:19 AM
I would shoot Brandon (bwl) or Jon (JBroida). They both are Caucasians who have worked as sushi chef's. they wouold have some valuable insight.

06-27-2011, 10:41 AM
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for the advice and tips! I'm definitely going to be researching this very thoroughly--but then again, i was doing that already. Thanks guys!!!

06-27-2011, 12:07 PM
Whoa! Just saw you were in Atlanta! I bet you could get your feet wet at Nori Nori. At minimum get some experience on a resume before moving onto a small sushi shop. Caveat Emptor: I give you this advice as a home cook/culinary student not as a pro chef.


06-29-2011, 11:41 AM
I haven't been to Nori Nori yet. I'm currently working for a big chef in the inman park area, and I love my job/its great experience. I think I'll have to look for something I can do in the mornings before work--like johnny chance and john doughy were discussing. I'll definitely try to shoot for MF Sushi but I would be flat out shocked if they let me intern over there. Doesn't hurt to try though!

06-29-2011, 12:26 PM
I'll definitely try to shoot for MF Sushi but I would be flat out shocked if they let me intern over there. Doesn't hurt to try though!

Never underestimate the power of free labor. Even if it is just ***** work for the first month. Remember, a lot of us did the same thing when we started, most likely so did the chefs there. Be enthusiastic and willing and someone will gladly take you on.

John Sushi
11-29-2012, 03:19 PM

No need to be Japanese to make good Sushi!

I have trained in Europe with www.Sushi-School.com (http://www.sushi-school.com) and they were really really good.

I did the 10 days training with 3 different chefs in the kitchenfor 9 students...and learnt sooo much, it's unbelievable!

Long days (9hours) and fun chefs, one Japanese, one Brazilian and one French...a very good mixture of skills and tastes...i am still on a high and it was over a year ago!

I now have my own sushi bar and doing very well!
Knife: Hongasumi Blue Yanagiba sashimi from lohira.


11-29-2012, 06:35 PM
Welcome John!