So maybe nobody is going to quit a day job and become a sushi chef, but the dozen or so people who spent three hours yesterday taking a sushi-making class at Sur La Table did get the hang of the process by the end.
I certainly won’t quit my job, given the difficulty I had at first while attempting to make a California roll.
California Sushi Academy director Phillip Yi visited the store on Fourth Street to teach two lessons Thursday. People signed up for the class for various reasons; some for fun, one woman because she wants to expand the food at her catering business, one wants to teach her high school students the technique, and me, because my editor sent me.
Yi, who has been working at the Sushi Academy in Venice, Calif. since it opened two years ago, made the preparation look simple.
He began by discussing the recent popularity of sushi, especially in California where dancing chefs and rock and roll sushi bars lure people to restaurants. Believe it or not, traditional sushi bars in Japan don’t have either of these attractions.
“In Japan, when you go to a sushi bar, (the menu) changes regularly, depending on the season,” Yi said to the class. “Here when you go to a sushi bar, you expect to see certain things on the menu every time, but they have exotic things in Japan.”
Luckily for the class, we got to stick to making popular American-style rolls, things we had at least seen and tasted before.
Yi told us that Japanese food is all about color and presentation. With that, we got out our sticky rice and seaweed and struggled as we made our first California rolls. I have seen dozens of chefs make sushi, and while I admit it doesn’t look very simple, it looks easy enough to pick up and have some success without too much practice.
I was wrong.
The rice stuck to my hands better than it did to the imitation crab meat, and when I cut into my first roll to make smaller pieces, avocado and cucumber shot out each end. But I stuck with it, as did the rest of the class, and eventually we had results we weren’t too shy to show off.
Yi also showed us how to make cucumber rolls, Nigiri sushi and handrolls. And as the course moved on, the results got better.
“I am really proud of this one,” Rose Wallace said as she placed her second cucumber roll on a plate. “That’s the best one so far.”
During the class, Yi made sushi, walked the beginners through each step, showed how to make rice that is sticky enough for sushi, gave preparation tips, and recommended some of the better sushi bars in Los Angeles and the Bay Area.
“This is just a fun thing, nothing serious, everybody having a good time,” Yi said of the three-hour-long class, which he also teaches from time to time in Southern California.
The California Sushi Academy is the only registered school of Japanese culinary arts in the United States. Over 55 full-time students attend the academy, where they can complete the Basic Course in three months and the Professional Course in another three months.
“People that take our six-month course are very serious,” he said. “They are spending a lot of money and time to learn to become a sushi chef or to incorporate it into their restaurant.”
Wallace said that her catering business in Sacramento will begin to serve sushi, but most of Thursday’s students will only use what they learned to make sushi at home on occasion. Some had plans to hold a sushi party as soon as this weekend.
Richard Dawson of Fremont said he will probably not make sushi right away, “but eventually I will make some.”
As for me, perhaps I will make sushi at home some day. But like I said, I’m not quitting my day job.