The Retro-Diary – Shaan Goes Hollywood

Posted: August 24, 2010 in Uncategorized

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’.


  1. Maytal says:

    Wooaahh.. you made sushi for hurley?? thats awesome!

    btw.. you met another Tali ?? I’m jealous.. I thought I was the only one in your life.

    Keep up the good work!!! I can’t wait to see Wasabis in Jersey 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s