LOADING ...

How Master Sushi Chef Derek Wilcox Brought His Japanese Training to New York — Omakase

927K+ views   |   12K+ likes   |   375 dislikes   |  
Aug 08, 2019

Thumbs

How Master Sushi Chef Derek Wilcox Brought His Japanese Training to New York — Omakase
How Master Sushi Chef Derek Wilcox Brought His Japanese Training to New York — Omakase thumb How Master Sushi Chef Derek Wilcox Brought His Japanese Training to New York — Omakase thumb How Master Sushi Chef Derek Wilcox Brought His Japanese Training to New York — Omakase thumb

Transcription

  • - What I would say to my mentors back in Japan,
  • (speaking in Japanese)
  • Good evening, welcome, how are you?
  • I grew up in Virginia,
  • northern Virginia, suburban Washington D.C.
  • I grew up eating pretty much what everybody else eats,
  • SpaghettiOs and macaroni and cheese.
  • Being a foreigner living and working in Japan,
  • especially in a traditional industry like that,
  • you're helpless at first, kind of like an infant.
  • This is okoze,
  • called goblin fish or scorpion fish or stonefish.
  • And then, you kind of go through
  • an adolescence or teenager year
  • where you're kind of rebelling against it
  • and then, you go to the point
  • where you realize that rebelling against it
  • isn't helping you at all,
  • and then, you're basically an adult.
  • These spines are venomous.
  • There are these little poison sacs
  • along the side of the spine.
  • It'll sit along the sea floor
  • with these spines up to protect itself.
  • You kind of have to, if you just graze it with your fingers,
  • you probably won't get any venom,
  • but if you stab yourself, it injects the venom.
  • Even when it's not alive anymore, it will inject the venom.
  • And this guy won't kill you but it's very painful.
  • There's some thrill about eating something
  • that's trying to kill you back.
  • I actually did fugu before I did okoze.
  • So, I was kind of over the poisonous fish nervousness
  • by that point.
  • But really, the danger is really
  • to the fishermen and the chef
  • more than it is to the diner with this fish.
  • So the first thing you do is to get the spines out
  • by cutting down on each side.
  • All right, I'm going to have to move fairly quickly
  • 'cause we don't have a lot of time.
  • So first you got to get the eyes out, then the guts.
  • Oh, this one has eggs, which is nice.
  • My first day at Kikunoi (chuckling).
  • So, Kikunoi is kind of famous in Japan
  • for being a really, really hard place to work.
  • But I didn't know that.
  • We'll serve more than 100, 150 people for dinner,
  • which is large in Japan.
  • It's very traditional kaiseki,
  • so you learn a lot of traditional techniques
  • across all of Japanese cuisine,
  • not just say, sushi or tempura or something like that.
  • You learn the whole breadth of technique, which is great.
  • The first Michelin guide came out in Kyoto in 2008,
  • I think it was.
  • And they got three stars,
  • and they've kept the three stars since then.
  • Chef Murata is passionate about showing
  • what's incredible about Japanese cuisine
  • and spreading it around the world.
  • That's probably the reason why they let me in.
  • They told me 16 hour days, which was actually not true.
  • It's more than that.
  • I wasn't ready for that.
  • I wanted an immersive, tough experience
  • but nobody's prepared for that.
  • Most of the kids who go there quit in the first two weeks.
  • These are Japanese kids, of course,
  • coming from top-level cooking schools,
  • or were the children of famous chefs.
  • And they quit in two weeks, most of them.
  • I've done a lot of octopus,
  • and this is the only way I've ever done it, so.
  • Let me get some of that ink off.
  • And these are the eggs of the octopus.
  • Here, you can see where the membrane is broken,
  • you can see the individual eggs,
  • they're very small, very tasty.
  • This is a coarse, flake-style sea salt.
  • You don't want to use like, kosher salt
  • 'cause it'll give it a strange flavor.
  • I think after about six months, your body kind of adjusts,
  • and it gets little easier in terms of physically.
  • And then, you start to get more responsibilities
  • and then it gets tough again.
  • I think not knowing what's going on so much,
  • and not understanding when I was being chewed out
  • in Japanese, at least at first,
  • kind of helped me, maybe to stick it out.
  • I ended up staying there almost seven years.
  • I probably didn't settle in until about my sixth year,
  • in terms of not just the language
  • but also just fitting in in the social environment at work.
  • Now this octopus is squeaky clean.
  • All the slime is out and we cut into pieces.
  • And you can either leave the siphon on the
  • tentacles, I'd take it off,
  • I'd take it off and butterfly open the head,
  • and then split the tentacles starting here at the back.
  • And this one's already had the beak removed in Japan.
  • So, they'll kind of attack each other
  • and you'll get this like,
  • bite marks if they don't remove the beak, so.
  • (thudding)
  • It's almost like, if you give someone a massage,
  • kind of like, a deep massage,
  • and you kind of feel that there's knots in their muscles,
  • that's what it feels like.
  • (tapping)
  • This is zarame.
  • This is basically a Japanese version
  • of demerara or turbinado sugar.
  • It's a raw sugar or washed sugar from southern Japan,
  • where they do sugarcane production.
  • You put in the tentacles
  • by kind of dipping them and pulling them out a little bit,
  • and dipping them and pulling them out.
  • And that's to get a nice curl on the tentacle.
  • Then the head can go in too.
  • After working in Kikunoi for seven years,
  • I was thinking of coming back to the United States,
  • but I realized that in the U.S.,
  • sushi is by far the most important Japanese cuisine.
  • Just to have the professional skill,
  • I wanted to train in sushi for at least a few more years.
  • So I went to Tokyo and trained at Sushi Aoki in Ginza
  • for another three years before I came back.
  • Kaiseki in Kyoto, is not just a tasting menu.
  • It's a cultural experience.
  • And it's plugged into all these cultural
  • and craft elements in Kyoto.
  • And then you go to Tokyo,
  • and it's more like a restaurant here,
  • where you're trying to just put together a meal
  • that makes people happy.
  • It's nowhere near as demanding.
  • I think what makes the menu here at Shoji
  • different from other omakase restaurants
  • is it's a combination
  • of the kaiseki and sushi.
  • So that tai has got to be 10 years old, I'd say, maybe 13.
  • For tai, there's kind of sweet spot
  • at about two and a half kilos,
  • where if it's too small, it doesn't have enough fat.
  • And if it's too big, it's still good
  • but you get a little bit less yield
  • because the tendons get larger
  • and you can't use the parts
  • that have a lot of tendons in them.
  • This is kohada, gizzard shad.
  • You sort of have to go through learning,
  • not just the language but you know, body language,
  • and what's expected of you in the workplace in Japan,
  • which is totally different from here.
  • Work in Japan is your life.
  • When in Western culture, I think, in general,
  • I know in America, you can mimic, you can mirror people.
  • And it'll get you a lot of places
  • that if you feel uncomfortable in a social situation
  • or you don't know how to act,
  • if you mirror the person you're with, it's a good guide.
  • In Japan, it's a very bad thing to do.
  • The thing is, in Japan, it's hierarchical.
  • So every relationship,
  • you're either above or below somebody for the most part,
  • especially at work.
  • If say, a chef is telling you something to do
  • and you mirror even their body language, that's very bad.
  • I mean, if they know that you don't know what you're doing,
  • they might put up with it.
  • But most of them would be just furious.
  • Also, once you get some responsibility
  • and you're responsible for some of the younger cooks,
  • if you mirror the way they talk to you,
  • they'll assume that you're below them,
  • and they won't listen to you
  • and they'll actually start talking down to you.
  • You have to learn how to act in different situations,
  • and you have to think
  • what you're supposed to be doing in that situation.
  • There's so many different kinds of eel around the world.
  • As far as Japanese food goes,
  • there's three major ones that you eat.
  • There's the anago, the unagi, and the hamo,
  • which is this guy.
  • Hamo is a kind of eel,
  • it's sea eel but it's not the normal sea eel, anago.
  • It has the same richness that eel has,
  • but it also tastes like a white-flesh fish.
  • In western Japan,
  • people are passionate about it during the summer.
  • If you go there,
  • you'll have it a thousand different ways every place you go.
  • Hamo is not just a great fish
  • in terms of its quality and its flavor,
  • but it's a great achievement in Japanese cuisine.
  • It took a lot of ingenuity and skill
  • to develop a technique to make hamo edible.
  • After I learned how to do it,
  • I didn't want that skill to be a dead-end.
  • And I want to pass it along
  • to the people that work here also.
  • All the eel are funny.
  • It's not like a normal fish.
  • It's more like an animal
  • that then went back into the ocean or something,
  • and lost its legs.
  • This one is from Awaji-shima, Awaji Islands,
  • which is off of Osaka.
  • There's sort of a strait between Kyushu
  • and the main island and Shikoku.
  • And it's very nutrient-rich
  • but also fast-moving ocean currents.
  • And all the fish from there,
  • are particularly fatty but not flabby
  • because they have to be athletic
  • to survive in the fast currents.
  • It's one of the best places for fish in the whole world.
  • On the inside, eels smell like an animal
  • smells on the inside.
  • They don't smell like a fish smells on the inside,
  • particularly hamo.
  • This part looks kind of normal compared to a regular fish.
  • But instead of taking off the whole filet,
  • we're going to butterfly it.
  • And this part is different.
  • You come from this side.
  • And this is the kind of part, the difficult part
  • 'cause it's very thin.
  • And you don't have a whole lot.
  • Okay, that was the first difficult part,
  • getting out the backbone.
  • The ribs are also difficult to remove.
  • Well, the hardest thing is cutting the bones
  • because you have to cut through the flesh,
  • through the bones, but not through the skin.
  • And the bones are hard, they're calcified.
  • They're not soft like some other eel bones are.
  • But you need a very thick, heavy knife
  • to get through the bones.
  • You know, it's almost like playing the violin.
  • You have to learn how to do it step by step.
  • The knife is a honekiri-bocho,
  • which means bone-cutting knife.
  • So this is the bone-cutting knife.
  • If you look at the edge, you can see it's quite thick,
  • about a quarter-inch thick.
  • It's heavy and there's no weight in the handle.
  • The handle is just wood.
  • It's basically weighted like a machete.
  • And you need that weight to get through the bones.
  • (cracking)
  • You're hearing the bones
  • cutting through.
  • Yeah right there, there's about 10 bones.
  • So, maybe 80 rows of six bones.
  • So, hundreds of bones.
  • You want to cut about every millimeter or two,
  • and that makes the bones small enough
  • that you won't notice them.
  • Even if you're not serving hamo itself,
  • the muscle control that you need to do it,
  • is an important training step when you're becoming a chef.
  • I think what makes the menu here at Shoji
  • different from other omakase restaurants
  • is it's a combination of kaiseki and sushi.
  • I wanted to learn Japanese cuisine,
  • but I wanted to learn it in a way and to an extent
  • that no one had done before.
  • So I needed to do something that nobody had done before.
  • This is okoze, sliced very thin.
  • A little bit of its skin has been blanched
  • and is in the middle.
  • If I were doing French cooking,
  • I could work five days a week and 12 hours a day.
  • But no, I'm doing Japanese cooking,
  • so I have to work six days a week, 18 hours a day.
  • So this is the hassun,
  • which contrasts something from the ocean
  • and something from the mountain.
  • This octopus is from Sajima island in Tokyo Bay,
  • poached until tender.
  • And new potatoes from Hudson Valley
  • with snap pea, also from Hudson Valley.
  • Hamo with bainiku, which is pureed pickled plum.
  • You have to really, really want to do it.
  • You have to be passionate about it or you're gonna quit
  • 'cause it's so difficult.
  • I kind of couldn't quit, even if I wanted to.

Download subtitle

Description

Chef Derek Wilcox spent seven years learning expert sushi techniques in the kitchen of three Michelin-starred Kikunoi. He came back to New York to open Shoji at 69 Leonard, where he continues the traditions he learned in Japan.

Eater is the one-stop-shop for food and restaurant obsessives across the country. With features, explainers, animations, recipes, and more — it’s the most indulgent food content around. So get hungry.

Subscribe to our YouTube Channel now! http://goo.gl/hGwtF0