Archive for August, 2010

Aug. 20, 2010 will go down as being one of the most important days in the Sabi Sushi adventure. Let’s take it from the top…

10:00am: We picked Shaan up at the airport. It was the first time the whole team would be together in 15 days. Dan was fresh off his Hawaii vacation, I just got back from Memphis and Shaan had just finished his LA session with Phillip. The drive back to Aunt Patti’s basement was hilarious as we all compared our Sushi Central experiences and how differently Phillip had treated us all. Looking back, its crazy that we had planned our lives around opening a restaurant, and just now we finally knew what the hell the sushi side of things was really about…ends up Phillip’s bootcamp was a little more useful than reading Sushi for Dummies…

11:15am: We arrived back at Aunt Patti’s and headed to our basement to continue our discussion. Things were going too good, we all had different insights about what we had learned from Sushi Central and how we could bring these ideas to life in Sabi. We’d rolled rolls, cut fish, chopped veggies…Sushi wasn’t such a mystery anymore…It was like discovering that girls really don’t have cooties.

12:45pm: The discussion moved towards our location search. For the past month we had convinced ourselves that Boulder was our perfect spot…But then Shaan asked a question that would prove to be the turning point of  our day: What happens if we can’t get into either of the spaces in Boulder, what happens then? Nobody had an answer. Up to this point we realized that we had fallen in love with Boulder as a town, and had just assumed that we could make it work, but like Shaan said, what if it doesn’t?

1:15pm: Silence

1:25pm: Trevor: “shit”

1:30pm: More silence

1:32pm: Dan: “lets go grab some food.” We jumped on the opportunity to get out of this basement of gloom. However, leaving the basement didn’t help anything. The car ride was different from our typical laughing, joking and jamming to Mike Posner haha…this one was silent. For the first time during this whole venture I felt lost. What was our backup plan? We have been across the nation looking for spots and decided Boulder was perfect, but if it doesn’t happen, what do we do. We have all of our guns in place to make this restaurant fly. We have been planning on a January opening to coincide with the start of the Spring Semester for CU students, and to pull this off we needed to get in a spot in the next month. If we missed the January opening we were looking at having to wait all the way until next August to open up shop, and frankly I don’t think I have the patience for that kind of wait, especially when I feel so confident in our knowledge, team and concept. Damn.

2:15pm: We tried to talk about our options at lunch but our usual confidence and energy was missing. More and more questions started to come up: What happens if we have to wait another year to make this happen? Where will we get the money to live another year without a real job? And the scariest one of them all… Are we really doing the right thing? We’d worked too damn hard to go back home with our tail between our legs. Everything just needed to work out. It had to. Right? With each question the pit in my stomach grew.

3:00pm: We had an appointment to look at an apartment. Even this seemed pointless, why the hell would we get an apartment with a year-long lease if we don’t even know if we’ll be able to open up our restaurant here?

4:30pm: Back to the basement. At this point we hit rock bottom and resorted to watching shows on our lap tops. We all had the headphones in so we sat in silence. Dan chose to drown his sorrows with How I met Your Mother. Shaan escaped to the fakeness of the Real World and I decided to watch Weeds so I could stare at Mary-Louise Parker for long periods of time.

5:30pm: We were all still watching our shows but I knew that each one of us was thinking about the situation we were in. We had just graduated from Duke University, all of our friends are all doing amazing things and even have jobs and stuff! And here we were sitting in a basement watching tv on our laptops…sweet.

7:30pm: Shaan: “We have to get out of here! Let’s go to Fridays get some food and figure our shit out.” (I’m pretty sure that’s what Steve Jobs said right before he invented the ipod)

8:00pm: We get to Fridays, and plan on having a serious conversation about the business. We take our seats and all of a sudden I feel a huge hand slap me on my slouched back. It’s Demetrius The Bartender who asks, “Happy Hour Brotha’s! How many long islands can I get ya!?” Little did we know this would prove to be one of the answers to our problems.

9:00pm: We were all a few strong islands deep and feeling better about life, there was a dude dancing on the bar and we had a spread of buffalo wings and ranch. Ok ok.

10:00pm: We decided it was time to head to another bar. We hadn’t said a word about Sabi, but instead talked to each other about some of the hardest times we’d ever had in our lives. Family problems, adventures in Costa Rica and more came out of the woodwork…four years living together, and I’d never heard any of these stories…who knew? We finally decided it was time to leave Fridays, so we asked some of the girls we met where we should go. “WHISKEY RIVVVVER!” was the popular answer. We hopped in a cab and headed there.

10:15pm: Arrive at big barn with cars parked all around it. Hmmmm probably not our style but we decided to give it a shot. We walked in decked out in our shorts, Air-Force 1’s, and v-necks and were greeted with a barn full of cowboys dancing to a Big and Rich cover band. The last time I had felt this out of place was when we were at the NY Stock Exchange. Everyone turned to see who the hell these three idiots were coming to their bar.

10:20pm: We decide not to stick around and get branded by the cowboys. Back in the cab and heading for another bar.

10:30pm: Arrive at our new bar, The Penalty Box. Michael Jackson (r.i.p.) was playing on the jukebox. Order a few rounds and take our seats at the bar. 11:30pm: Meet a Tina Fey look alike and her Swedish friend.

12:00am: See another dude dancing on the bar. Greeley is a strange strange place.

1:00am: Convince Tina Fey and her friend that they should buy us drinks because we are homeless.

1:30am: Last call, music turns off and they begin to clear the place out. Why does that always happen when things just start to get fun?

2:00am: Finally listen to the bouncer and leave to the parking lot. Tina and the friend stuck around outside for a bit but ended up leaving cause the “friend” was “tired”…Thanks friend. Good friends like her are hard to find…and harder to get rid of…

2:15am: The three of us found a bench on the side of the road and sat there like a bunch of hobos and started to talk about Sabi. We started things off talking about the most important things we had learned from Phillip. We all agreed that the experience was one of the most rewarding things we’ve ever done in our life and it was more than just learning about sushi, but about becoming a man. As Shaan explained a few posts ago, Phillip is one of the most amazing people you’ll ever meet, and he found a way to test us all and make us grow up in the short time we lived with him and worked in his restaurant. We all talked about how we had opened up to Phillip but had never really opened up to one and other. Yeah, we had been best friends for the past 4 years, but were we acting like it?

3:00am: For the next 4 hours we talked about everything. For the first time we laid everything out on the table, we called one and other out for certain things. We praised one and other for what they bring to the team. We admitted that each one of us brought both unique strengths and weaknesses to our team. We talked about what we wanted to get from this venture and the reasons we thought that we had made it to this point. The three of us on paper couldn’t be more different; Shaan was born in Oklahoma, lived in Texas, Denver, China, London and Indonesia he went to Duke to someday become a Sports Medicine Dr., Dan was from New Jersey and had dreamed about becoming a stock trader in NYC is whole life, and I was from a small town in Wyoming and went to Duke to try and play basketball. But despite our different backgrounds we had met and now we were here in this moment, in the middle of Greeley, CO sitting on a curb together growing up as each hour passed. In the end it was obvious, this project was exactly what we needed to be doing with our lives and no matter what happens if the three of us can trust each other, not get flustered by anything and keep our foot on the pedal, it’s going to work.

6:30am: The sun started to rise. But it didn’t matter. Our “problems” of earlier in the day didn’t matter. I have never felt so confident about this venture than I did at that moment. And I know that Shaan and Dan felt the same. The day had been a gut check. But in the end it brought us together. It forced us to re-commit ourselves to this mission, and get back to what had got us to this point.

Even when things get stressful and the situation looks hopeless, sometimes business plans and financial models won’t help you.  Sometimes you’ve got to get out, meet some people, and have some drinks with your boys. Now if you’re lucky, your boys are also your business partners, and you’ll realize that getting drunk in the middle of Greeley, CO, and watching the sun rise with two guys is the right business move to get your swag back.

6:45am: We drove home laughing and joking, at how random the night was. Looking back on this day I realized that it wouldn’t have happened without Phillip’s influence in our lives. He had taught us the importance of a team and how to open up to somebody and absolutely trust them. Yeah, that man was instrumental in giving us the opportunity to learn from his sushi knowledge, but even more importantly he made each one of us into a better person than we were before we met him. For that we’d like to thank you Phillip, you’re the man!



The Retro-Diary – Shaan Goes Hollywood

With a nod to Bill Simmons, this is a play-by-play walkthrough of my encounter with Hollywood during my training in LA.  Think of each update as a Twitter update…you know, if Twitter wasn’t something that we will one day group with beanie babies, fauxhawks, and Paris Hilton as stupid things we did because everyone else did them…without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, the Sabi Retro-Diary.

9:00 am : alarm clock goes off.

9:01 am : alarm clock gets thrown across the room.

9:20 am : Finally give in and roll out of bed. It’s only been 14 days, but Sushi Bootcamp has officially dominated me. Each day has gone like this : wakeup at 9am , work until 11pm, clean up until midnight, drink heavily with the restaurant crew and eat drunk food until 2am.   6 days a week. It takes a toll on you.  The amount of mercury and alcohol my body has consumed in three weeks is disturbing. My liver hasn’t spoken to me in weeks…that relationship might be over.

10:30 am : Almost done ‘opening the kitchen’. Trash cans lined with brand new shiny bags. Fryer is warming up. Vegetables are stocked and fresh. Tuna is scraped. The rice is cooking. The hangiri is soaking. The tables are set. I’m still not awake, running on auto-pilot is a good sign here. My first few days I was freaking out trying to memorize the million things to do to prepare the restaurant for opening, now its like brushing my teeth in the morning.

12:00 pm : I’ve been handling the sushi bar all morning, no problem. All the steps: spreading the rice, remembering what goes inside each roll, and talking to customers while rolling are now a piece of cake. Even the most stressful part, the sushi roll cut (which I repeatedly messed up like when someone rings the doorbell on TV and you spend 30 minutes checking your front door)…cheesecake.

12:33 pm : “irishai!” I say our customary greeting to Hurley from LOST as he walks into the restaurant.

12:33pm and 5 seconds : wait…Hurley from LOST….Holy shit!!!!

12: 36 pm : !!!!!!

12:42 pm : I settle down, dry off my sweaty palms, sneak a peak at my hair-do in the glass sushi case to see how I look (…incase Hurley is single?? Why do celebrities turn our logic  into sillyputty)

12:45 pm : Phillip, who is accustomed to celebrity appearances in his restaurant (Elijah Wood, Ziggy Marley…etc) normally leaves them alone since that’s what they prefer.  Perhaps him having to tell the Food Network Throwdown! With Bobby Flay story 3029843 times has made him this way. However, the night before, I was talking about LOST with Tali (Phil’s wife) and Phillip chimed in that he had only paid attention to LOST for 5 seconds, when Hurley was in the ocean and accidently stepped on a sea urchin (known as uni and is a delicacy in his restaurant). He jerked his head up excitedly to watch this show featuring uni but quickly lost interest (after seeing the season finale…he probably had the right idea giving up on LOST right then and there)

12:47 pm : Phillip, knowing that Tali would kill him if he didn’t speak to Hurley, walks up to the table and has the following conversation.

Phil :  Hey. You’re in LOST.

Hurley: nodding sheepishly

Phil : I saw you step on an uni once. Would you like to try some of our sea urchin?

Hurley : no thanks…I’ll take a crunchy roll…

Phil :  Weak. Shaan, 1 crunchy roll please.

12:48 pm to 12:55 : cleaning the poop out of my pants…just kidding, but not really…the thought of messing up Hurley’s order scared the crap out of me. I’m not ready to face the smoke monster.

12:56pm : I tried to look as confident as possible. One of the hardest things about working in Sushi Central was dealing with people who expect an old Japanese man to roll their sushi. Even Tali, Phillip’s Israeli wife who has trained for years in Japan, and is one of the best sushi chefs I’ve ever seen, gets these looks and comments to this day.  Racism in the sushi world has run rampant; hopefully we can make a dent in this prejudice/misconception. Sabi will be the Rosa Parks of Sushi.

1:00 pm : On the last cut. A roll is cut into 6 pieces at Sushi Central, and the last one is the hardest. You have no margin for error, if you mess this up, the whole roll is ruined, and its messy. Especially with the crunchy roll (which requires shrimp tempura inside), this means Hurley would have to wait another 15 minutes.  Also, I made things a bit harder on myself by stuffing it to the max (because he looks like a man who would appreciate that) but now the roll is bursting at the seams, and it will take a fast cut through the middle to prevent the filling from falling out the sides.

1:01pm : Crunch Roll…complete.  I’m a little too proud of myself. Nobody’s around to congratulate me so I give myself a high five. Crap. My self-high-five turned out to just be a loud clap, and now Hurley’s looking at me. Why am I so awkward?

1:02pm : I do my best to plate the roll, and use eel sauce (crayon) and sesame seeds (glitter) to make it look like a 4th grade valentines day card by a girl…the final touch:  I take the blade of my knife and etch 4-8-15-16-23-42 into a glob of wasabi.

1:15pm : I watch eagerly as the roll gets to Hurley. He takes one look at it…and passes it to his girlfriend. Turns out he’s not eating today, and actually has to leave in a few minutes to get to the set. However, his girlfriend absolutely loves it. She couldn’t stop laughing at the little touches, the numbers, the sheer size of the roll, and the fresh taste. She said bye to Hurley as he left (but couldn’t stop saying, we HAVE to come back here, this place is great!). Due to Sushi Central’s appearance, being located in a little strip mall in West LA, nobody expects it to be great, except Phillip. Although we put a lot of time and effort into our design, our website, our marketing, etc…all that matters is the taste, and the personal touch.

Consider it another lesson learned. At Sabi, we might as well put a red carpet down at the front door, because each customer should be given that star treatment. Presentation, flavor, style, and a personal touch. That’s how you make everyone feel like Hurley, and not just an ‘other’.


If you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up at the age of 7, I would have told you I wanted to be a chef. I’m pretty sure in my 2nd grade yearbook that’s actually what I put as my dream job – although I have no idea where that yearbook is to confirm it.

EIther way, I have to believe that my 7-year-old self is ecstatic right now. While I’m sure he didn’t have sushi chef in mind when he wrote that (I don’t even think I knew what sushi was at the age of 7) I have to believe that there is some sort of crazy link between myself today and the Nickelodeon watching, Pog and Beanie Baby collecting 2nd grader I once was (come on, you know you collected them too).

I’m not sure if I want to call that fate, but there is something to be said about my once farfetched dreams as a kid and what has become of me with Sabi Sushi. I think it is the same strange force that led me to Duke University in the first place; the same force that randomly paired Shaan and Trevor as roommates freshman year and landed me next door to them. The same strange force that led to our Tivo recording Phillip’s Throwdown with Bobby Flay when we never had watched the Food Network, and the same force that led us to Boulder, Colorado.

There is absolutely no way in hell I could have predicted what I would be doing after I graduated even a few months ago, but my second grade yearbook begs to differ!

Last month when I was in Los Angeles, Phillip had me finely chop green onions to put in the Spicy Tuna mix and Miso soup. When I ultimately didn’t cut them finely enough, he had me sift through the bowl of slices and pick out the ones that were too fat for re-slicing. About an hour into this process, he came up to me and asked, “did you ever think you’d be elbow deep in a bowl of green onions after you graduated Duke?”

To be honest, I had never really thought of it that way until then. For years I had dreamed of landing a job on Wall Street. I spend the past three summers at Merrill Lynch and Prudential trying to gain experience in the financial markets – obviously striving for something more than to chop onions at the end of the day.

However, when all was said and done – it seems that my 2nd grade self might have been much smarter than I had previously thought. For those of you that might not believe in birthday wishes, little Danny Certner might beg to differ…

So tonight when it’s time to blow out the candles…watch out world…


Bonus: Who needs cake when you can celebrate Greeley, CO style? Aunt Patti’s famous birthday guacamole:

Colorado Birthday Guac

– Dr. Phil –

This blog post was supposed to be an update. A story of all the sushi skills I’m learning, or a funny story about rolling sushi for the celebrities that visit the restaurant here in LA (Hurley from LOST!) But after what happened today, things have changed.

For me, this blog has been just another way to promote ourselves. Tell our story. Expand our fanbase. I spent less time thinking about what to write, and more time counting our growing number of website hits.

Today? I want that number to be high. Today, I’ve got a story to tell. Today, I saw a car salesman walk in to sell a car, and leave with a new lease on life.

Onto the story…

It’s Monday, and things were slow, just a few customers dropping in during the lunch hour, and then a long break until a scattered dinner. As a restaurant owner, this is your biggest fear. You’re Nocustomerphobic. After you order fresh food, and have your whole staff waiting behind the counter ready to go…no customers.

Imagine sitting in your living room with a goofy cone hat on, balloons all filled with helium, and a huge cake on the table…but nobody shows up for your party.

You watch the clock. You wipe tables and re-organize utensils…the only cure for your anxiety.

Now the business side of me fears this outcome for Sabi. Becoming just an average Joe. Taking our great idea, and all of our excitement and energy, and having it turn out to be a dud.

But today I saw that its not all about the numbers and dollars.

The day started off with our waitress smiling cheerfully as she brought donuts to work. She was really excited that her night of heavy drinking didn’t cause her to be hungover today…

(fast forward about 15 minutes) ….we realized that she was just still drunk,

(1 hour later) Hangover kicks in.

Her pain was compounded due to a recent breakup with her longtime boyfriend.

Now Sushi Central is less of a sushi restaurant and more of a laundry mat inside an airport…I’ll explain.

The employees and customers all bring in their dirty laundry and emotional baggage to this tiny Sushi sanctuary in West L.A.  In just one slow Monday shift, Phillip coached our waitress, our chef, myself, our intern’s mother, and now a man named James, through all of our emotional distress. He wasn’t just Chef Phillip Yi. He’s the boss, Dr. Phil.  And apparently there’s no shoulder like a chef’s to cry on. (I bet its because of the delicious comfort food).

As I sat in the corner of the restaurant, jotting down notes on my journal while the dinner rush was slow, a Korean man walked through the door.

The day before, Phillip had gone to visit his sister in Orange County, who then dragged him car shopping with her. In the end, he helped her with the actual purchase of the car. However, due to a typo, the car salesman had made a 1-hour drive to the restaurant to get Phillip to re-sign the corrected papers. As Phil welcomed the stranger, he noticed that something was weighing heavily on the salesman’s mind. He offered him a seat and began talking with him. Phillip thanked him for driving all the way to the restaurant for the signatures, and asked a simple question about the car he was driving.

This is Phillip’s art. Asking questions and giving people space to open themselves up to him. The salesman immediately broke down, talking about how he had to borrow the car from a friend to drive here because he had lost his in his divorce. He soon revealed that he had hit rock bottom. He had no car, no money, 3 kids, a crappy job, and he was over 40 years old with nothing to show for it. He asked what he should do. Why was god punishing him over and over again?

When he was younger he had a good job (selling semi-conductors), getting a fat salary with bonuses, and a beautiful girlfriend. He loved her, tried to do a noble deed, paying for her entire college education for 4 years straight. As soon as she graduated, and had depleted all of his savings, she dumped him.

He was 30 years old, broke, single, and depressed. He attempted to hang himself twice and failed. He couldn’t even kill himself properly.

Now here he was, 40 years old, and in the same situation, expect with 3 kids to support.

Phillip listened. And I mean, really listened. Not the type of nodding and smiling and spending all your time thinking of what your response is going to be as soon as the other person shuts up. But really absorbing it. Listening.

He then gave the man some advice. That his happiness in life can’t depend on money. Or his job. Or his car. Or his girlfriend. Or anyone else but himself. He had to be a man, understand that things might be tough for a while, but to have courage, strength, and above all else: have hope.

“as long as there is hope. Hope. There is life.”- Dr. Phil(lip Yi)

You stay alive. You stay young. You maintain energy. Energy to turn your life around. To take responsibility for yourself and understand that your current state is a result of your past actions. Phillip’s then amended this Buddhist principle to connect with our Christian car salesman. He told him, “James. If you believe in God. Then this path he’s creating for you, is for the purpose of giving you the courage, and the strength, to do God’s work….Now, in order for you to help others, as I’m helping you today, you must have these trials, these experiences…Without experiencing difficulties and overcoming them, how can you help others? To truly guide them based on your own experiences, otherwise advice is just talk. Hot Air.

James repeated intently, “hot….air” his english was good, but he had never heard this phrase. Still he was grasping to every syllable Phillip was saying. He continued listening to Dr. Phillip: “There’s no meaning behind it. So if your path is to help others, then you must rise to this challenge and overcome it. Experience it fully.”

James sat and listened. He nodded. His English was poor, but his need for advice was so great that it transcended language. He understood the message. To stop asking God or the universe “why??” and start asking How can I change. What can I do. Where can I go. Who can help me.  And use rock bottom as a solid foundation to build an empire upon.

James tried to explain how he could feel his life change in that moment. From the time when he walked into Sushi Central, to the time that he would leave, he had changed his outlook on life.  He came in down, but not out. He was searching for help somewhere and Phillip was there to offer not just a helping hand, but also the tools for James to rejuvenate his life. He had given him hope.

James mentioned how he had hoped today would be a better day, but it started off by him losing two big car commissions. Now he may have lost two commissions, but he gained two friends in myself and Phillip.

I asked Phillip if it was draining. Being Dr. Phil, giving advice to our waitress in the morning, our chef in the afternoon, an employee’s mother during dinner, myself in our break time, and now James just before we closed, but he shook his head. He said it gave him energy. This is his gift, understanding human nature, connecting with people, penetrating their hearts. Whether he’s wearing the Sushi Central hat, being a father to his three kids, or adopting Me/Trev/Dan to go on this crazy sushi adventure, it’s his ability to connect with people that allows him to be successful. It’s the same reason that the Food Network picked him over the thousands of sushi chefs in America, and the same reason that we felt compelled to call Phillip after seeing him just once on TV.

As for me? Today was a new life lesson. That even though we’re starting a business, it’s not about the food, it’s about the people. The people you employ that feel like your family, and the people you serve, who make time in their crazy schedule of their crazy day, in their crazier lives to come eat at your restaurant.

You work for them. You can affect them.

I used to want to be a doctor so that I could save lives.

Tomorrow night, James is coming in for dinner. And I bet he’ll be standing a little taller, walking a little prouder, and living. Because we gave him hope.

Maybe I don’t have to be a doctor to save lives.

This is the best god damn Monday I’ve ever had.


During my time at “Sushi Headquarters” in LA, I’ve been living and training with our Chef, Phillip Yi. Sushi’s just a small part of what I’ve learned in my time here. In order to prevent some awkwardness (Phillip has discovered the blog), I’ve been handwriting my daily recaps, and now that enough time has passed, I can release them one by one. This has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. Now kick back, pick your poison, read, and enjoy.  – Shaan

Day 1: My Hollywood Ending

Phillip picked me up from the airport and took me straight to the restaurant. Goodbye Hollywood, hello back of the kitchen.

It was a bit weird being the last one to come train in LA. As much as Phillip wanted each of us to have our own individual experience in LA, I had already heard Trev and Dan’s stories, experiences, and new perspective on our mission.

Because of this knowledge, I already knew to get ready for hours of scraping tuna off their fibers. I knew Jesua is the man. I knew the hours are draining. I knew that Filipino Chef Dino Severino lives up to the epicness of his name. I knew of Trevor’s immediate successes and Dan’s early struggles to get the hang of the technique. But I had to wipe that all away, because I can’t live their experiences, have to create my own.

After meeting the crew, I got settled in and they told me they had saved me a treat, time to make Wasabi. As we remember from Dan’s Tears for Sabi post, mixing the wasabi paste is a painful (clears out the ole’ sinuses) but necessary task. In the US, very few restaurants use the real wasabi root (which only grows in the mountain river valley’s of Japan) since it goes for about $100/pound. For a reference, Gold is trading at about $83/pound*.

Luckily, they told me the trick was to mix it under the stove’s fume hood, and it’s a piece of cake (sorry Dan!). Already I was off to a good start. I watched as they rolled their Sushi Rolls. Interesting how different their technique was than our first time. Instead of taking notes, I observed their moves, noting in my mind step-by-step how they made a simple roll. Sure enough, a California Roll order came up and Phil turned to me, “That’s you Shaan, lets go.” And these are the moments you live for right? Heart’s pounding, and you’re called upon. It’s your time to shine, you can just feel those moments. So you take it step-by-step.

Step 1: The spread. –Grab a ball of rice, just a little bit smaller than a tennis ball as I had been observing. I tossed it in between my hands for a moment like a seasoned veteran, ready to spread it on the seaweed.

Step 2: Immediately realize you now have “sticky hand syndrome” with sushi rice stuck to every inch of your palms. Proceed to look like an idiot trying to rub the grains off your hands (in effect, transferring sticky rice from one hand to the other) and wishing that this scene had stuck to the script.

Step 3: Be humbled, and realize there is a lot to learn.

Everyone was cracking up, someone poured me a beer, another clapped their hand on my shoulder reassuringly that, although I didn’t even get past Step 1 of the Sushi rolling process, it was just that, a process.  We decided to start with the basics. I wasn’t a sushi natural, and this wasn’t going to be a Hollywood ending for Day 1.

And you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way. These are the moments that we’re actually enjoying during this process. Stumbling. Making mistakes. Being put in a situation where we might fail. Getting our butts kicked, and then picking ourselves up off the floor. Smirking at the world with a bloody lip, “is that all you’ve got?”

It’s not just a business venture for us, it’s a business adventure.

I finished the day learning the basics. How to make sushi rice.  How to keep your fish fresh. How to mop a floor. It’s not glamorous, but its key.  Every bit of deliciousness that a customer tastes when they take a bite of your food can be traced back to your preparation, your technique, attention to detail and refusal to take short cuts in the cleanliness and freshness of your restaurant. This is what we came here to learn…the technique and glamour of sharp knives, exotic flavors and sushi rolling, those things will all come later, once we learn what it means to own a restaurant that you are proud of. A restaurant that stands for something.

For now, I’m just taking it all in. Tomorrow begins the attack, my journey towards earning my sushi stripes and learning from Phillip. One step at a time.


*Price fluctuates depending on popularity of CASH-4-GOLD commercials

whats up?

Posted: August 14, 2010 in Uncategorized


I’ve officially been in the restaurant industry for one week.

I’ve scraped tuna for hours.

I’ve mopped floors.

I’ve waited tables.

I’ve made mistakes. A lot of mistakes.

I’ve worked 14-hour shifts for seven days straight.

And you know what? I’ve rolled sushi.

I’ve rolled sushi for Hurley from LOST.

I’ve rolled sushi like my life depended on it…because from now on, it does.

I’ve learned how to roll sushi from one of the greatest sushi chef’s in the USA.

I’ve actually learned how to roll sushi while rolling up the dirty kitchen mats.

I’ve gone into the fridge and grabbed a foot-long live sweet shrimp by pinching it just behind the head because that’s the only spot he won’t curl up and attack.

I’ve taken a shot of that live sweet shrimp’s brain.

And chased it with its guts.

I’ve made sushi for my friends, and made friends while making sushi.

I’ve learned from my mistakes.

I’ve learned mistakes will continue to come.

I’ve gotten drunk off my ass with customers.

I’ve met some of the most hard-working and genuinely happy people I’ll ever meet.

But enough about me, how was your week?