How Master Sushi Chef Kate Koo Charted Her Own Sushi Path — Omakase

How Master Sushi Chef Kate Koo Charted Her Own Sushi Path — Omakase


(water sloshing) – Sushi chefs are basically
professional rice-makers, in my humble opinion. It’s a never-ending quest, which is something that
I love about sushi. It’s the unobtainable perfection, it is the mountain that you
never get to the top of. Welcome to Zilla Sake. (paper tears) (scissor rasps) So, growing up, my parents
taught me to be strong, goal-oriented, high-achieving,
to pay attention to detail. So, this wasabi is from
Oregon Coast Wasabi, which used to be called Frog Eyes, and what’s cool about
this one is that, inside, you can see that it has kind of a purple, got a little starburst,
and so when it’s grated, it turns a really nice magenta color. My mom used to tell me,
do it right or do it over, and that’s something that
is a very valuable thing to remember, because those are really the only two options in sushi, you either do it right, or you do it over. So, at Zilla, we mainly use
products that are from Japan. We do use local purveyors,
suppliers, fisherman, tribal fisherman, but for
me, I think it’s important to recognize that, in
doing an ethnic food, there’s going to be a
fair amount of sourcing that you have to do from overseas. (utensils clatter) So, our anago comes from Hakata. As far as I know, Zilla is the
only restaurant in Portland who regularly gets eel
shipped fresh over from Japan. (utensils clank) I started making sushi when I was 19. I started in Tempe, Arizona,
kind of serendipitously at a sushi bar called Ichiban. I had a couple of mentors at Ichiban. One was an older gentleman from
Osaka who we called Johnny. From his tutelage, I gained a lot of really important skills. Probably one of the biggest
lessons that Johnny taught me was how to be my own harshest critic. (stirring music) I moved to Hilo, Hawai’i, in 2002 to pursue a linguistics degree at the
University of Hawai’i, Hilo, and after I graduated, I
actually got a job working in fish importing at Hilo Fish Company. So, this madai actually comes clean. Madai have very, very tough scales. They’re almost like fingernails. My job was to coordinate
container ships going through different ports in Asia, and
then bring those containers to the state of Hawai’i, offload them, and then sell the product to our clients. It was really valuable to see
the other end of what I do, and the supply end of the chain. This octopus is wild-caught from Portugal. And we need to just…in sake, with salt. So, we’re gonna use the
end of the daikon radish, which has this nice natural
handle on the top that we save. And you just kinda, you just go down. (radish thumps) So, I was born in Seoul,
Korea, and I was adopted at six months by American
parents, grew up in Oregon, and I always felt a little
bit halfway in between Asia and the United States,
so when I moved to Hawaii, it was the first time in my
life that I was not a minority. There were a lot of other
Asian people, obviously, a lot of mixed Asian people. In Hawai’i, we say poi dog, all mixed up. Kohada is one of my favorite
types of hikarimono. I think one of the biggest
things that I learned when I was at Hilo Fish Company is that
there are so many people in between either the fisherman
or the farms, overseas, and the sushi chefs at a sushi
bar who are cutting the fish for their customers. This type of cutting is called
hiraki, like a butterfly cut. Kohada is such a beautiful fish, I think. So, when I first learned about Zilla, when I applied for the job, I
thought that I was replacing a head sushi chef, and
then I came to find out, there was no sushi bar. And, it was a great
opportunity for me to be a part of the sushi bar from the ground up. (paper rasps) So, this is the back loin,
so we won’t get belly toro. There was no one here to teach me, and so, I was actually the one at Zilla training the chefs that came through, which is also a very good
self-teaching experience. I learned a lot, even from
people that I was training, people that didn’t know
anything about sushi coming in. (stirring music) Humility is the cornerstone
of any good sushi chef. Not having a sushi mentor
or someone to train me or look over my shoulder
later on in my career posed its own challenges, but I would say that it really made me be the person who had to look over my own shoulder. (water rushes) The word sushi actually
refers to the vinegared rice, and there are multiple
ways to write it in kanji, but the word itself refers
to rice that has been seasoned with seasoned vinegar. This is a really grounding
part of being a sushi chef. It’s humbling to wash rice, you know, we’re not cooking it in a cast
iron pot over a fire anymore, but it’s something that connects
sushi through the history. For me, rice is the heart of the sushi. It’s the most important ingredient, and we actually consider the fish to be the topping for the rice. You can have the best fish in the world, but if you don’t have good
sushi rice to go along with it, your sushi will automatically not be good. I didn’t plan on settling
in Oregon, necessarily. I actually thought I
was gonna stay in Hawai’i after I graduated from U.H., but I found myself back in Portland, and I have a family here now,
so I plan on staying here. (knife thuds) I’ve come across many obstacles
in my career, my gender, my ethnicity, not having
someone to train me later on in my sushi journey,
but I think, overall, that experience has made me the sushi chef that I’ve become today. Japanese bluefin chutoro sashimi with locally grown, fresh-grated wasabi. I’ve never pouted about it, it’s not something that got me angry, it’s just something that was motivating for me to work harder to prove myself. Madai from Japan. It’s just something that,
for me, was motivating, those type of situations,
to climb my own ladder and my own mountain, and
that’s how I got to be the owner of Zilla today. Japanese bluefin akami. House-cooked tako. Kohada from Japan. Anago from Hakata with
fresh-grated yuzu. Young women come through
here that I have been able to train, and it
gives me a lot of happiness knowing that the perseverance
that I’ve learned in my career is something that I can pass
on to the next generation of sushi chefs that are
just starting out now. (stirring music)

100 thoughts on “How Master Sushi Chef Kate Koo Charted Her Own Sushi Path — Omakase”

  1. I truly miss all the amazing restaurants in Portland, I am back in the Bay Area now and the food here is disappointing

  2. I want to thank you for showing me the video I think it's the most interesting way to prepare food I have a question when it come down to looking for sources for the food is it possible to understand how to look for the sources and also since you get food from Japan does it take a long time for it to go through American customs please let me know this information because I think it's the most interesting way to prepare food it is what it is thank you Kate it is an inspiring story.

  3. I ate at Zilla for the first time a few weeks ago. She was amazing to watch prepare every piece of art she put in front of me. Wonderful that's all i can say .

  4. base on professional—job of sushi chef judge,she just had “fancy american” traditional what is the people in states expecting about japanese sushi looks like. She knew a lot about knowledge of sushi, but never know the reason prepare all ingredients in kitchen

  5. Hot af. Marry me babe. Gonna make sure to stop by next time i be to Portland. Imagine that bubble tanned ass.. 🤩🤩😍😍😘😘

  6. Come to think of it… I have never seen a female sushi chef… EVER. There should be more👏😎. You go girl I’ll eat at your restaurant one day!

  7. Oregon grown wasabi is bitter, we use the wasabi from Izu, Japan and they are only little more expensive than domestic grown wasabi but worth the price

  8. Just the seriousness know how and patience itself,also artistry is so spectacular!Much respect and many blessings in your future endeavors Ms.Lady.

  9. i respect your professionalism but most countries are straight out banning japanese seafood products now and for good reason. have you ever measured the radiation levels?

  10. Proud of you. Only in America the women sushi chef can shares their talent and passions for making sushi in business….especially sharing it in YouTube. (Not just for family friends gathering). I'm also a female sushi chef that's fortunate to be in America where no one think it's a problem having a female sushi chef. You got lots more knowledge than lots of men sushi chef from all kind of races just because they are men…. seems they can make better sushi ? Well I'm nobody but yet every sushi rolls and all the fishes that come in, I put my heart in to make sure all stay fresh and proud to present it to my customers. No one looks at me as female sushi chef but only compliments how fresh my sushi is. I'm in small restaurant tuck in a corner, all I need is the neighood support… I'm just grateful it's America, where gender don't matter as long as their money worth it. Cheer to you…. May you be so succesful and your talent and passions of making great sushi be recognized.

  11. I love Japanese excellent skills and cuisine but I will now boycott every channel that supports Japan’s whale fishing…!!!

  12. How TF are you saying your gender and ethnicity made it a challenge? You're literally doing the most stereotypical job of an Asian woman 😂

  13. Some people are soooooo lucky to have Chefs like her in their cities. I'm so jealous.😭🇫🇷

  14. this is inspiring I am a sushi chef woman of 3 months so far. I have great mentors and a wonderful opportunity work with the best. I'm getting a one of a kind accelerated sushi training that will propel me to great heights of achievement. thank for the video.

  15. Hi everyone. Does anyone know the name of the knife she uses at 6:51–6:55? Please let me know, if you do as I am having a really hard time, finding it

  16. You know I'm something of a sexist myself, I think women think differently, it is hard for me to work with some women because many of them are quite emotional but refusing to work with women just because they are women, or thinking men are better is not sexism it is severe brain damage, so whenever I see a talented women crushing that glass ceiling I feel very proud because I want to have a daughter and god send me patience to not beat any douchebags telling her that she is uncapable of doing something because she is a woman

  17. Hilo Hawai’i!! My home!!! Shout out to chef for giving our little island in the middle of the pacific some acknowledgment!!!!

  18. I hate everything about this. Everything. The dude’s voice over dub is terribly annoying. Why couldn’t the woman just talk herself? What was the point of having her voice dubbed? And by a man’s no less.

  19. Seems like they are giving out the master title to literally every sushi chef out there. Shes good but she is not a master yet judging by the way she cuts that tuna

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