Raw fish, sharp knives: San Francisco sushi chef wins Sushi Masters competition


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Four sushi chefs went maguro to maguro on Sunday at the annual Sushi Masters competition, held at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center. One sushi chef had figs and foie gras. Another armed himself with lecithin and methyl cellulose. But, except for the rhubarb and the fact that there were more than 25 ingredients in his signature roll, the winner might have been the least flashy. Sponsored by the California Rice Commission and emceed by former ‘Top Chef’ contestant Brian Malarkey and the leggy ‘Stiletto Chef’ Candice Kumai, the contest drew an audience that filled the Little Tokyo auditorium.

Each of the four competitors was required to prepare one morikomi combination plate and one signature roll in 45 minutes. The competitors sliced and rolled to a soundtrack that included Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Devo.


Aside from chef Randy Noprapa of Maneki Neko restaurant in Falls Church, Va., whose arsenal of ingredients was the most streamlined, the finalists’ aim might have been to use as many products as possible. Too bad Noprapa’s foie gras didn’t do it for the judges.

Hyun Min Suh of Sushi Ran in Sausalito might have wowed judge Ilan Hall of the Gorbals with his mise en place (‘mind-blowing,’ Hall said), but in the end, the foams and powders weren’t enough to persuade judges to give him the gold. It could have been the raspberry sauce that put Toshio Furihata of Moshi Moshi in Miami Beach at the bottom of the competition.

Winner Tomoharu Nakamura of Sanraku in San Francisco (pictured above) won judges over with his signature roll, which he called ‘Harvest Celebration.’ It was inspired, Nakamura said, ‘by the harvest.’ According to an announcement released by the rice commission, chef Nakamura credited his success ‘to the use of seasonal items and a special combination of three varieties of California rice.’

-- Betty Hallock