Food For Thought: The Art Of Sushi Making - Tommy Begay



Recently, I had the opportunity to interview friend and sushi chef at Sushi On Oracle; Tommy Begay. I wanted to know where his inspiration came from and what was important to him as a chef, so I went to Sushi On Oracle and asked him some questions. 

Why is sushi your passion? 

A: I think food in general is my passion, also art, I do a lot of art outside of food and melting those two together I think sushi is the most artistic food outside of fine dining.

As a chef, what is the most important thing that goes through your head?

A: Most important thing, is the guest is happy. That´s number one to me. If they´re not having a good time then there´s something wrong, if they´re not enjoying what they´re eating, if they´re too cold, too hot, then there´s something wrong. It´s all about the experience, it´s not just putting food on a table.

What trials and tribulations did you have to go through to be where you are now?

A: Being Navajo has probably been my greatest challenge. There is a stigma that to be a sushi chef you have to be Japanese. I don't know why there´s that kind of stigma that you have to be Asian to make good sushi so that´s definitely the hardest trial I've ever had, to convince people that I make good sushi and that other people who are non Asian or Japanese can make good sushi too.

What kind of experience do you expect people to have here at Sushi on Oracle?

A: We want them to have a chill, laid back, good time but at the same time provide warm Japanese comfort food in the form of sushi that gives an edge to other places where the musics to loud or they're just trying to get people in and out the door. We want people to feel welcome, make them feel like they're at home. We have music here you can't hear anywhere else, we have food you can't eat anywhere else. It just feels like you're in a completely different world when you're here

What do you do better yourself everyday?

A: I mostly just try to focus in being a good person, making good food, and being quick at it. 

What´s the greatest piece of advice you've received from another chef?

A: "Make your bed every morning and things will start to change for you."

Do you feel like your passion for food translates in the food that you make?

A: Yeah definitely. Anybody has the potential to use the same exact ingredients, to stand exactly where I´m standing, and make the exact same food that I´m making but for some reason it tastes better when I make it. Just because I want to be here I want to be standing here, I want to make this food. I put a little bit of me in every piece of the food that I make.

My next question was how does he know how to combine ingredients in the way he does to make them taste so delicious. I've sat in front of Tommy more times than I care to share (sushi is life 🍚🍣) and I've always asked him to make me what his heart desires and what he makes never disappoints.

To this he answered: "That´s easy. Eat! Eat. Eat. Eat. Eat. I eat everything by itself I eat everything together. If you know how things taste you can kind of figure out what they taste like together if they complement each other or not."

And last but not least, the most important question of all:

Why should people care about Sushi On Oracle? 

His response was: I think people should care about the craft of sushi when it´s in it´s traditional form like simplicity. How you´re able to pull all of these delicate flavors from 5 or less ingredients and make into this "exquisite" meal. I think that´s why people should care about it it´s because not a lot of Japanese dishes have only 5 ingredients. That´s usually the max amount of ingredients; in order to achieve what people call umami* with just 5 raw ingredients I think that´s why people should care about it. It´s an art.

*umami - a strong meaty taste imparted by glutamate and certain other amino acids: often considered to be one of the basic taste sensations along with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. < Japanese - savory

Please enjoy a gallery of exquisite creations made by Tommy and don´t forget to always order the real wasabi it will change your sushi experience substantially.

Fun fact: Tommy LOVES pizza doesn't matter where it comes from so in case you want to thank him for amazing sushi you know that way to his belly 😋🍕

Food For Thought is a platform which highlights chefs and their personal stories and interests. It is a space where food creativity and passion comes to life.