Connecting with your customers: what I learned watching a Sushi Master from Tama Sushi in Action
A Sushi Chef is not just a master of his craft and of his art
Taking a Sushi class at Tama Sushi close to Tsukiji was real fun, but also truly eye-opening. I realized that if I ever want to change profession and become a successful Itamae (Sushi Chef) it takes a lot more than just knowing how to cut the fish properly or how to produce a pretty shaped nigiri. I would have to live the spirit of „Omotenashi“, Japanese hospitality and service, to its perfection. Being a respectful host includes showing respect for the materials you are using (I was taught how to showcase a very precious piece of tuna in front of the clients before making a nigiri), being passionate, a good listener, an observer, and above all, somewhat of a psychologist.
I would need to be able to connect with my customers, and detect their habits and customs, likes and dislikes. All this has to happen within a very short period of time, basically between the time the customer takes a seat at the counter and the moment he's being served his first portion of sushi.
Just in case you worry about the language barrier: At Deep Japan we are happy to help with finding a good interpreter for your experience!
Here is where you can sign up for the class via Gurunavi: http://r.gnavi.co.jp/jge/en/entry/post-000814.html
Check out Tama Sushi's English Website here:
Some little tricks help: by serving a small dish at the beginning the Sushi Chef can find out whether his customer is right or left handed. Based on this he will decide how to place sushi on the plate so clients can eat them comfortably.
And have you ever wonderered why in upscale Sushi restaurants the nigiri are served one after the other and not all the same time? This is not only done in order to guarantee the highest degree of freshness, but also to observe if the customers eat the sushi with their fingers or use chopsticks. The Sushi chef adjusts his technique: loosely pressed format for customers using their hands and hardly pressed ones for those with chopsticks so that they don't fall apart.
Having learnt that you are most probably being watched by the itamae while enjoying your sushi, I decided to pay more attention on how I eat – by the way, if you are participating at a sushi course at Tama Sushi you will be taught some useful tipps and tricks. When it comes to using soy sauce (Shoyu), a lot can go wrong: never dip the rice into the soy sauce! Instead, turn the nigiri sideways (90 degrees), then make it inverted by twisting your wrist (or chopsticks) and dip the fish part into the sauce. Also: never dip wasabi into the soy sauce – this damages the flavor of the wasabi seriously. And finally: don't use soy sauce for any boiled fish such as conger eel (unagi)!