The Sushi Chef

A tough apprenticeship

While our Sushi Perfect content aims to give you a good grounding in all aspects of sushi making, we must admit that it takes a good deal longer to become a true sushi professional. Both shokunin (sushi ‘technicians’ or ‘artisans’) and itamae (trained chefs, literally ‘with a chopping board in front’) must serve apprenticeships of several years, and show a commitment to perfection.

Starting at the bottom

Apprentices are treated harshly, and must begin by carrying out the most basic and menial tasks such as cleaning and scrubbing, before graduating to food preparation. They must often toil for long hours with few holidays, and may not even get to touch sushi rice until they have worked for three years or so.

A true master

The fully trained sushi master is not just a highly skilled cook, but also an entertainer, who displays his culinary dexterity to his customers while exchanging banter and providing information on the sushi he is preparing. He (as the vast majority of sushi chefs are male) will be able to pick up almost the same amount of grains of rice each time he makes a piece of sushi, while at the same time imparting his encyclopedic knowledge of sushi to customers. Sushi chefs are also responsible for selecting the best ingredients from the market.