WALLA WALLA — In a land where grilled salmon is the seafood king, raw tuna captured the culinary passions of several sushi-making students on Friday night at Someone’s In The Kitchen cooking school and restaurant.
"There was a demand for it. We had a lot of requests for sushi. And it is not something I do well," Executive Chef Gene Soto said, explaining why he turned over his classroom kitchen to local sushi chef and caterer Kevin Kato.
"My goal in doing this is not only showing people how to make sushi at home, or for sushi to spread, but to show that this is just one part of Japanese cuisine," Kato said.
Most of the students at Friday’s class had previously tried to make sushi at home; some with more success than others.
"I have once; it ended poorly," Tracy Tribbett said, as she worked alongside Paul Samson to create sushi rolls under Kato’s careful instruction.
"I think it is one of those fun projects you do and have people over for dinner," she added.
Megan and Travis Watts, on the other hand, have made sushi a number of times. And until recently, making it was the only way they could get it.
"We eat a lot of sushi. We don’t make it a lot," Megan said, while she and Travis carefully worked rice vinegar into a container of specially cooked rice.
"Before Aloha Sushi was here, we were forced to make it," Travis said. Then commenting on Friday’s class said, "The rice is the key. I just learned a lot."
Kato was also glad when Walla Walla saw the opening of its first and only sushi restaurant in 2007, even though he already knew how to make both traditional and American styles of sushi.
"When I was going to Whitman as a freshman and sophomore I used to say someone could make a killing if they put in a sushi restaurant ... I thought it was great, it’s great that sushi came to Walla Walla because it shows how diverse we are becoming," Kato said.
That same year he also was hired as a sushi chef at Aloha Sushi. Over the next two years he went on to major in Asian studies, minored in Japanese, lived in and studied in Japan, and even did his thesis on the artistic Japanese lunch box phenomenon known as Bento.
"I am really passionate about what I do. I really love Japanese cuisine and cooking in general. And for me when someone says this was delicious and thanks you and that it was great, it makes me happy because I made them happy," he said.
But there is an unhappy side to sushi, students agreed. And that is the cost, especially for John Fischer, who can’t seem to get enough of the raw fish and rice-filled seaweed wraps.
"It’s almost like an addiction. Two or three times a week. It is expensive," Fischer said, and added, "I think it was my wife’s idea to buy me this class as a gift and try to save some money."
Alfred Diaz can be reached at email@example.com or 526-8325.