Sushi is one of the most aesthetically-pleasing dishes in the world, requiring a great amount of care and skill in its preparation. Chefs are highly-trained and undergo rigorous, on-the-job instruction. Although no formal training is required, trainees are also required to serve a demanding period of apprenticeship before being permitted to prepare sushi dishes. In order to understand the genius behind those little rice parcels, we take a look at some of the training required as well as how such beautiful deliveries are created and then prepared for sushi delivery. We’ll also take a brief look at one of the world’s most respected sushi chefs.
Becoming an itamae (chef) of sushi requires an extensive amount of on-the-job training. Although no formal training is required, the apprenticeship phase usually requires some kind of classroom instruction. In addition to the basics of food sanitation and safety, apprentices are expected to develop excellent knife skills as well as an extensive knowledge of fish, raw produce and flavour combinations. It’s not surprising then, that in Japan, trainee sushi chefs can spend up to ten years working with a mentor before promotion is considered!
Once an apprentice has attained an acceptable standard regarding rice preparation, they may then be promoted to the position of ‘wakiita’. Translated as ‘near the cutting board’, this position requires the apprentice to work in close proximity with the master-chef and prepare fresh ingredients for the sushi on a daily basis. As the wakiita learns the subtleties of sushi creation his duties are gradually expanded until he or she becomes fully-qualified.
Methods of creation
In Japan, sushi is considered a form of art because its appearance is thought to be just as important as the flavour itself. Although styles of preparation vary according to region, rice is the key ingredient. To put it very simply, either short or medium grained rice is cooked very carefully and mixed with vinegar, sugar and salt. The texture and consistency of the rice must be just right. Also, the vinegar used in its preparation should compliment rather than overpower the rice’s natural flavour.
Profile of a sushi master
In order to fully appreciate the skills required in sushi preparation, take Jiri Ono. Widely considered to be the best sushi chef on the planet, Ono is the holder of three Michelin stars and boasts a wealth of experience when it comes to the preparation of Japan’s famous, minimalistic dish. His work and life are celebrated in the documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi which takes a look back over his storied career. In it, the 85 year-old reveals some of the secrets to his success and how his outlook on life and work has helped elevate him to the rarefied heights of sushi mastery.
“Once you decide on your occupation, you must immerse yourself in your work”, says Ono. “You have to fall in love with your work. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill.”
Such a dedicated approach goes a long way in explaining how an 85 year old man is still able to maintain the highest standards of sushi preparation, after such a long career.
“I do the same thing over and over, improving bit by bit. There is always a yearning to achieve more.”
Jiro Dreams of Sushi reveals how difficult and demanding the role of sushi chef can be and how much dedication is required in order to produce the best dishes. This of course applies, not only to eateries in the Far-East but also to hand-made sushi London establishments. So the chef that prepares for sushi delivery faces the same challenges as his counterpart in New York or Paris.
Remember also, that sushi preparation is an extremely delicate task requiring patience, skill and imagination. This can often be put to the test when preparing sushi for delivery. Dishes must therefore be made to withstand the bumps and knocks that can often occur during transit, so that the customer is presented with a dish they would be happy to eat at an actual sushi bar or restaurant. Thankfully, we’ve got this down to a fine art and take great care in the preparation and packaging of our cuisine.
So the next time you order central London sushi, it’s worth remembering that the greatest care and attention is given to the preparation of all our dishes from a highly-trained and dedicated sushi chef.