Sushi Chef

Sushi Chef

Sushi Guy

Minneapolis, MN

Male, 37

Worked as a sushi chef for thirteen years and held two head chef positions during that time. Cut my teeth in Seattle and performed most of my career in Minneapolis.

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24 Questions


Last Answer on November 21, 2014

Best Rated

Is there honestly THAT much difference in quality between the fish served at mid-range vs high-end places? I live in NYC and sure I like the sushi at pricier places, but honestly blindfolded I often couldn't tell the difference vs. a mid-range place.

Asked by Jeter over 9 years ago

Objectively, there can be a substantial difference in fish quality between different restaurants. Although, I'm hesistant to make the assumption that any given higher-end restaurant would be better than the emblematic mid-level joint.

But if an upscale restarurant has a renowned reputation, I would safely bet that they have a nice fish selection too. And reputable restaurants generally attract better chef talent.

My tip would be to learn how to properly eat sushi. Becoming a good sushi eater will quickly enable you to recognize quality.

How to eat better: Don't put wasabi directly in your soy sauce, instead apply a small amount directly to the fish. Mixing wasabi and soy sauce together contaminates both of their flavors. Dip the fish part of the nigiri in the soy sauce, not the rice. If the rice soaks up too much of the soy it creates an imbalance in flavors. Don't use too much wasabi. It's suppose to create a nice accent to the flavors, not be the primary thing you are tasting. When using too much soy or wasabi, you are covering up many of the nuanced flavors of the fish. 

Please don't put ginger on top of a piece of nigiri or sashimi. It is a palette cleanser like bread at a wine tasting. What you are effectively doing is taking the piece of bread and dropping it in your wine glass and then drinking it together.

Special sushi rolls are delicious, but it's sort of sushi for people who don't like sushi (that was their origin). After you slather a roll with eel sauce and spicy mayonaise, it practically doesn't matter what kind of fish is in there. It's analagous to dilluting your Johnny Walker Blue with Coke Zero. I love fun rolls, but they only make up about 10% of what I eat. 

I can't emphasize how great of an experience it is to have a perfectly shaped nigiri, where the rice is perfectly seasoned and is at the proper temperature of about 90 degrees F paired with a thin slice of chilled fish. Use just a light touch of soy and all the flavors harmonize like an orchestra in your mouth. The mouth feel of the different textures, the feeling of the rice breaking for the first time, and the sensation of the different temperatures completes the experience.




OMG, that escolar thing happened to me too and RUINED pants. Found the answer online. I also learned that a lot of sushi places serve escolar (b/c it's so good) but mislabel it as 'whitefish' or 'butterfish'. Why is it banned in Japan but not here?

Asked by George over 9 years ago

I don't know. Health officals are aware of the issue though. The health department in my city makes restaurants place a disclaimer on the menu about the over-consumption of that fish.  

You bring up a good point on fish naming conventions. There are none. Fish can go by many names and this can be a source of confusion. Some restaurants will even call escolar white tuna even though that name already universally describes albacore tuna. Plus escolar is not even a part of the tuna family. I understand it's more marketable to call something tuna because tuna is wildly popular, but it crosses an ethical line for me.

What qualifies a fish as "sushi grade"?

Asked by darius over 9 years ago

There is no formal FDA regulation in this country to officially label something as sushi grade. But most fish needs to undergo an FDA required temperature treatment to eliminate any parasites. The fish needs to spend a week at a temperature of -4 F, or for 15 hours at -31 F. Wild salmon is especially important to undergo this process, because it is a salt water to fresh water fish. Tuna is an exception and doesn't need freezing; it is considered a clean fish.

Sushi bars in my experience, scoff at the idea of temperature treating the fish, because some of the seafood can get very beat up through the freezing process, and because other countries do not have these requirements. I don't have a formal opinion on this, but if you are pregnant, stick to cooked fish. Otherwise there is a good chance you are eating something that hasn't been frozen.

The fish needs to obviously be "fresh": not smell or be sticky in any way, the meat should have a rebound to it when pressed upon, the whole fish needs to have clear eyes and scales that are firmly in place. I put fresh in quotes because this is a complicated issue. Americans (I'm American too) put too much emphasis on meat never being frozen. The reality is that never frozen fish might have been caught in the middle of the Pacific ocean one day, sits on the boat for a week, comes back to harbor and sits for a bit more, then finally gets loaded on a plane or a truck and makes it way across the country to a restaurant. There could be a lot of time between when it was caught to when it lands on your plate. Some fish is cleaned and frozen immediately after it is caught and this could argueably be considered fresher than the first scenerio. Also, some fishing vessels employ super freezing which drops the temperature of the fish to something insane like -70 C. I've had some of the best toro (fatty tuna) that underwent this process.

The bottom line is that it is up to the fishmonger or sushi chef to determine if the fish is safe to eat and is of the highest quality.


How can you as the chef tell if sushi has gone bad? Just the smell? Do different fish types go bad quicker than others?

Asked by Speko over 9 years ago

Sometimes it is very easy to tell. A strong smell or a sticky texture are definitive deal breakers. Sometimes the initial clues can be visual like a change in color. Fish tends to lose it's vibrancy and brown as it ages. This can be misleading, because some frozen tunas undergo a carbon monoxide treatment for color retention and they are like the McDonald's hamburgers that never seem to age. The last thing we'll do it stick it in our mouths and taste it. This elicts either a nod of approval or an abrupt spit festival at the garbage.

Any yes, some fish turns quicker than others.

Did you see Jiro Dreams of Sushi and what did you think?

Asked by RB over 9 years ago

Not yet. When the film came out my sushi career was winding down and I was getting burned out. The last thing I wanted to do was go home and watch a documentary about work. But it's in my Netflix queue and I plan to watch it soon. I heard it's good. 

Can certain types of fish cause anal seepage? I ate a nice platter of sushi once and it gave me "sharts". That has never happened before. Well once when I had a fiber one bar, but that's a different story. What gives?

Asked by Momma Bear over 9 years ago

The culprit was most likely a fish called escolar (mutsu in Japanese). It is bright white and has a buttery texture. Some of the oils in the fish are indigestible by the human body and if enough is consumed it can cause intestinal distress. It usually takes a day or two for the seepage to begin and once it does you better stick an oshibori down your pants because the seepage permanently stains. Fun fact: escolar has been banned in Japan since 1977 because of its potential side effects. 

In my experience, eating a few pieces is fine. But anymore than that and you start to play a game of adult diaper roulette.

Is there a trick to making the seaweed paper roll nicely? Every time I've tried to make it at home, mine just flakes and cracks. (I just use store-bought stuff, is that why? Do you make your own?)

Asked by Carolyn over 9 years ago

The first way I would troubleshoot this would be to buy higher quality nori (seaweed). I would find a Japanese or Asian market that offers a nice selection and give some higher-end seaweed a try. I've had a similar experience with low quality nori.

Also, use a bamboo mat to roll. The bamboo mat will help distribute the pressure you are applying, and it will make tears less likely than if you used your fingers.

If all else fails, just cover the seaweed completely with rice and flip it over. Put the ingredients on the bare seaweed side and make an inside out roll. If you use a bamboo mat for an inside out roll, wrap it in plastic wrap first.

Rolling sushi isn't easy. I have 13 years of experience and still screw up rolls sometimes. There are many factors that go into the rolling equation: temperature of the rice, stickiness of the rice, quality of the seaweed, how much filling you are trying to use, what the filling is made of, is the cutting board or bamboo mat damp? Be mindful of these variables and figure out how they affect the final product.