Sushi chefs create the traditional Japanese specialty using steamed rice and ingredients such as vegetables, seafood, eggs and tofu. Chefs specializing in the art of making sushi spend years learning how to purchase the best fish and how to slice sushi ingredients with perfection. Trained sushi chefs work for restaurants or start their own businesses selling sushi directly to customers.
Entry-level Sushi Chefs
Apprentice, or entry-level, sushi chefs work under the supervision of master sushi chefs in restaurants and other food service operations such as supermarkets. The responsibilities of an apprentice could include, but are not limited to, receiving and preparing ingredients, making sushi and keeping the work area clean according to health department standards. California Sushi Academy says that its graduates get paid around $1,700 dollars a month plus tips up to 600 dollars. Entry-level sushi chefs, however, could get paid more or less depending on experience and location.
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Advanced Sushi Chefs
Advanced sushi chefs exhibit their skill by being able to identify superior quality fish and creating eye-catching and palate-pleasing perfect sushi, according to sushi master chef Sukiyabashi Jiro in the film about his life, "Jiro Dreams of Sushi." Advanced sushi chefs create menus, hire and train staff, and a prepare a wide range of sushi types in prominent, visible positions behind sushi bars. According to "New York Magazine," an advanced sushi chef with eight years experience can make up to $100,000 in a restaurant setting. Indeed.com estimates the national average to be around $41,000.
Given America's continued interest in sushi and the fact that sushi restaurants thrive in large urban areas such as New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta, business-savvy sushi chefs can establish long careers working as chef entrepreneurs. Sushi chef restaurant owners are subject to the same market conditions as other restaurateurs such as customer interest and the strength of the economy. Sushi restaurant owners, however can make unlimited income as evidenced by the career of well-known sushi chef Nobu Matsuhisa, who owns a chain of restaurants with locations in the United States and around the world.
In Japan, sushi chefs were traditionally men who undertook apprenticeships at a young age to learn the craft. In the United States, aspiring sushi chefs learn their skills by working with a mentor or by taking sushi classes. Sushi Chef Institute and California Sushi Academy, for example, offer short-term courses of study that provide students with basic and advanced instruction in Japanese cold food preparation. Some jobs require sushi chefs to hold an associate's degree in culinary arts, while others accept proof of experience as sufficient for employment.
- New York Magazine: "Non-Asian Food;" Beth Landman; May 21, 2005
- Sushi Chef Institute: Our Mission
- Indeed: Sushi Chef Salary
- National Public Radio: "Sushi's American Accent;" Karen Grigsby Bates; 2007
- California Sushi Academy: Information About Our Students
- Tribecafilm.com: "David Gelb: Jiro Dreams of Sushi"; By Emily Ackerman; March 13, 2011
- "Food and Wine Magazine"; Sushi in America; Ray Isle
- Nobu Restaurants