Shaan in LA – Day 1 – My Hollywood Ending

Posted: August 14, 2010 in Hall of Fame Posts

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

  1. […] 49. Prepared sushi for Daryl from The Office and Hurley from Lost. […]

  2. Anonymous says:

    Gold is trading at around $1,550 an ounce, which is $24,800 a pound, not $83

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