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What Does It Take to Be a Sushi Chef for Nobu?

Chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, the maestro of Japanese fusion cooking, operates on a one-name celebritydom: Nobu. Known worldwide for his innovative fusion cuisine that blends Peruvian cooking with traditional Japanese techniques, he might just be the most recognizable Japanese chef around the globe. With more than 40 restaurants in a number of countries and a partnership with Robert De Niro, we started to wonder, what are the secrets on becoming a chef for Nobu?

In our quest for answers, we traveled all the way to France to visit the famous Matsuhisa Paris, Nobu’s first restaurant in the country! Located inside Le Royal Monceau, Raffles Paris, the restaurant offers an extensive and imaginative menu of Peruvian-Japanese cuisine, providing a cultural and gastronomic encounter between Asia and Latin America. Two cultures for which Nobu himself has great fondness.

Proportion of senior management roles held by women
Image Source: Le Royal Monceau

First opening its doors on March 2016, the Matsuhisa restaurant in Paris is helmed under the expert eye of Hideki Endo, a master sushi chef whose work Nobu followed while working in Hong Kong. Once inside the cozy and intimate atmosphere of the restaurant, which features designs by Philippe Starck, we met up with one member of Nobu’s team of chefs, Christos Martzoukos, for an inside look on what it takes to become a sushi chef for a world-renowned culinary artist.

While it might seem easy, becoming a sushi chef is no simple task. There is a huge difference between good and bad sushi; therefore the journey to perfection consists of a lot of hard work, discipline, and dedication. So, what does it take to become a sushi maestro?

What are the skills to become a good sushi chef?

For Martzoukos, discipline is of topmost importance. "Have discipline. Respect the hierarchy of the kitchen, because whatever the master sushi chef is teaching, it has to be followed exactly by the letter. In the Japanese way, if you follow exactly what they teach you, that means that you evolve as a chef."

What is the most common mistake while making sushi?

Don't overlook the basics and core essentials. Martzoukos says: "The most common mistake when people are making sushi is the base. They have to do good, proper sushi rice. You will, of course, choose high-quality fish to combine it with. There are a lot of trends now in Europe to make sushi mixed up with many ingredients on the top, but this is something that the Matsuhisa company didn’t want to follow. We are evolving sushi with much higher quality ingredients, but not as a fast food."

Proportion of senior management roles held by women
Image Source: Le Royal Monceau

How is the Nobu brand involved in the selection of its chefs?

Whether you go through the Nobu Group, the HR Team, or word-of-mouth, only the best candidates end up joining the team. "Every candidate goes through an interview process and then they are are invited to spend a trial day at the restaurant to showcase their unique skills. We select the best chefs! They keep being trained with new techniques and taught new products. As Nobu and Matsuhisa are worldwide brands, we have a highly multicultural team and this is actually our strength."

What are the key strengths that set Nobu restaurants apart and what are the secrets to becoming a chef for Nobu?

The "association of tastes and textures, freshness and quality of products, and highly talented chefs" are among the unique features that set Nobu apart, according to Martzoukos. "Know about the brand, be motivated and be eager to learn more every day. Be open-minded to mix different cultures."

What advice do you give to young talents who aspire to become sushi chefs?

Martzoukos believes in passion, dedication, and discipline. "Be passionate. Follow, on a daily basis, the instructions of the master chef, and be ready to sacrifice a lot of hours in the job!"