I see beautiful Southern California blue skies through the big window. At the end of the long 15ft. sushi bar, Jin san sharpens his knife on the brown whetstone.
"That is Not Yanagi?" I ask Jin san. Yanagi is the Long willow-leaf-shaped Sashimi knife used by sushi chefs.
"Oh, yes. This? I bought it at a restaurant supply store for $15," Jin san smiles at me.
"If you sharpen it well, it works perfectly fine. I have two of them."
Jin san, by far, is the most experienced sushi chef I've ever worked with. He started his training at the sushi restaurant in Tokyo at the age of fifteen. If you ever heard the story of a traditional sushi chef apprentice, Jin san was the one who went through that life. His day started at six in the morning cleaning the restaurant and ended at midnight cleaning the restaurant.
Jin san never dreamed of coming to American, but when his friend asked him to help his restaurant, he couldn't say no.
"I have an expensive Yanagi, the one costs $2,000. But I keep it at home. Here, no need to use it because it's a casual sushi restaurant. This $15 chef's knife works just fine. I have two of them. It's how you sharpen it, not how much it is," Jin san says.
"A sushi chef's knife can tell me a lot. If I see someone's knife, I can tell what kind of sushi chef he/she is. I will see a knife before I see someone's resume," Jin san smiles at me as he fillets a large halibut more gracefully than anyone else with his $15 knife.
I always thought the more expensive the knife is, the better it is. I look at my $60 stainless steel Yanagi and feel embarrassed. Embarrassed because I was wrong about the knife. Embarrassed because I cannot sharpen my knife as well as Jin san could.
I tell myself, "Someday, I wish I could be like Jin san. Someday."
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