Addie-San, Chef's Profile

I thought it might be a good restart to this project to give a little background on who I am, so you can see how my passion for all things ocean and seafood began.

I am the only adopted daughter of two lawyers, raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, some seven hundred miles from the nearest ocean. The closest large body of water to me– which the city is named for – is nearly nine times saltier than the ocean. Brine shrimp are about the only organisms that can survive in it.

San Diego was my family’s favorite vacation spot starting from the time I was seven, and this was the first place I ever experienced the ocean. Since my parents started me swimming before I could walk, it took my dad hours to coax me out of the waves.

While my connection to the big blue and its creatures (particularly octopus) came early on, my affection for seafood did not. I was about the pickiest child you can imagine, what I ate for the first decade of my life can be counted on two hands. Grilled salmon fillets dipped in ranch, and fish n’ chips was about as adventurous as I got. Ironically, considering my current profession, sushi was completely out of the question.

It wasn’t until a trip to Norway with my great aunt at the age of twelve, that my palate began to branch out a little (though I still balked at the idea of trying mussels on a spring break trip to Washington, DC with my folks three years later) What really sealed the deal was moving to the Pacific Northwest to attend Emily Carr University of Art and Design. It is nearly impossible not to fall in love with food in Vancouver. Between the proximity to the ocean and the mix of cultures, there’s a wealth of aquatic influenced cuisines to be explored.

After five years in school, I was brought back home to care for my mother during a time of critical illness, from which she has since made great recovery. It was heart-wrenching being torn from the ocean - among so many other things - and I swore to myself I would find a way of maintaining my connection to it. Once my mother's health had found steady footing again there was time for me to find my first job after graduating. Since the moment I started art school, I had faced the teasing though sometimes condescending question of "well...what exactly are you going to do with your degree?" often aimed at me from those in less right brained derived professions.

I did what many millennials in a similar situation would, started on Craigslist. The first add I answered stated "sushi apprentice, no experience necessary," for a bar/sushi restaurant combo in Park City, Utah. I almost immediately received a reply, set an interview with the owner the next day, and landed the job.

I fell in love with the sushi-making process immediately, but after working for just over a month, which included a half hour canyon drive in the middle of winter and limited business at that location my energy for the position was waning. That's when I met Stan.

After a particularly grueling - and by grueling I mean mind numbingly slow - shift, I wandered downstairs for a beer and sat next to a gruff talking, tattoo covered man. A couple drinks in and I struck up conversation, what followed was an impassioned hour long talk about sushi and the restaurant industry. It ended with Stan, who I quickly learned knew anybody who was anybody in the Utah food scene, offering to find me a job closer to home with better training.

During our chat I had mentioned that my family home was a block from one of the oldest and most traditional Japanese restaurants in Salt Lake, Kyoto. I had grown up eating there, and it was the first spot I had ever tried sushi (albeit only California rolls and the occasional tentative taste of a Spider roll).

As it turned out Stan knew their head chef, Peggi Ince-Whiting (who I mentioned in a previous post). Right there in front of me, he sent her a message, then shook my hand and said his goodbyes. The next morning I woke up to a text from him telling me to walk down to Kyoto that morning before opening, and Peggi might have a chance to speak with me.

Our first conversation went pretty much like this...

"Hello, you're Addison? I spoke with Stan about you this morning. I can start you one to two days a week and see how things work out from there."

Easiest job interview ever. Whatever I had said to Stan the night prior made an impression, and I owe that and him the incredible progression of my career ever since. I have been at Kyoto just over a year now, and I adore every moment of it.

Needless to say this is a career that chose me, not the other way around. Now when people asked what I did with my degree, I very proudly answer that I am a sushi chef.

Sidenote: The title Addie-san is a play off my name that is affectionately used at work. -San is a respectful suffix applied onto names in Japanese. Addison, Addie-san, get it? Almost as though it was meant to be.