Kul IN: You studied in Japan at the Tokyo Sushi Academy. Can you tell us something about the work ethic, culture and experience of studying in Tokyo – what did you take back with you?
– In Tokyo, I studied with people from all over the world – from America, Australia, to Mongolia, Italy, Germany… The program is intensive and our classes lasted from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. each day. On Saturdays, we would go to restaurants to see the best in the business and help them in the kitchen. The tempo is fast, so I haven’t experienced Japan in a tourism sense. They have a zero waste approach that they insist on, everything must be used, and that comes from the culture – Japan had problems with hunger and from there they draw this mentality to use everything, for example, fish liver. In addition, I adopted their approach to sushi and brought it home with me – I want to highlight the best ingredients in the dish, and let the ingredients do the talking.
Kul IN: How does sushi culture differ in Japan and in the West?
– There is a big difference between the Western version and Japanese sushi, although I have respect for both approaches to sushi. In Japanese sushi, it is important to emphasize the purity of flavor, to showcase fish as a food item. In the west, a lot of sugar is added, e.g. avocado with sushi rice. This is often used to covers up the flaws in the fish. The Japanese style of sushi is based on nigiri – rice and fish – to feel the freshness of the fish and the locality, it is important that the fish is caught from that area on that sepecific day. The focus is on the purity of flavor, not on combining different flavors. You come to a sushi restaurant to try something from the local sea. In Tokyo, they serve sushi from Tokyo Bay, and we studied that Edomae style of sushi the most. Tokyo style sushi uses various methods of salt curing – the fish is placed in salt, vinegar, various fermentations. Those are food preservation methods that date back to the time before refrigerators. Few people know that sushi can be made with over 60 types of fish, even shellfish, some are as simple as salmon and tuna, while blue fish such as mackerel require more demanding processes to extract the “bad” taste of oil from the blue fish. Ginger as a side dish is there to cleanse the taste buds, while wasabi goes in sushi between fish and rice. It is also interesting that in Japan sushi is traditionally eaten with the hands because nigiri can be delicate and tricky to eat with chopsticks.
Kul IN: What will you show the participants of the workshop?
– To kick things off, I will give a short lecture about sushi and the history of sushi and the etiquette regarding raw fish, how to evaluate whether the fish is safe and fresh, what to look out for.
In the practical part, we will go through how to properly cook rice, which is the main base for sushi, sushi actually means “bitter rice” – sushi is rice seasoned with rice vinegar. Making rice well is the foundation, then I will show the participants a Western version of sushi that is simpler and closer to our taste buds. They will roll their own uramaki rolls, and my goal is for everyone who wants to prepare their own sushi to have a head start after the course.
Kul IN: Do you have any advice for young and new chefs?
– I would advise them to have patience for themselves and for others in the team. The more experience I have the more I realize how little I know, it is not just a cliche. It is important to maintain a balance between personal and professional life, you cannot remain happy otherwise. When I introduced new hobbies and socializing, my creativity and attitude towards work improved and I am simply happier as a person.
Kul IN: How do you see Croatian gastronomy, what helps us go in the right direction?
– I am glad to see that restaurants are increasingly competing with quality, not quantity.
Kul IN: Finally, what motivates you in your work?
– I always have a desire to learn and do new things, put something new together and see how it works. I also have one specific source of motivation – we visited a restaurant in Japan that delighted me so much that since then my goal has been to reproduce what I tried there. I will do my best to achieve that!