Dining Out editor Maya Silver had the chance to sit down with Yasu Kizaki, one of the sushi masters behind nationally-renowned Sushi Den, to get the inside scoop on his SLICED! sushi classes and she definitely delivers the goods!
In 2015, Yasu taught 1,000 students how to roll temaki, tatemaki, uramaki, and nigiri, and this marks his 10th year spreading the sushi gospel. Yasu co-owns Izakaya Den, Sushi Den, and their newest venture, OTOTO, with his two brothers: Toshi, master chef; and Koichi who visits the fish market in Japan everyday to hand-select the fish that will arrive at his brothers’ restaurants less than 24 hours later.
The secret to the remarkable success of Yasu’s sushi classes lies in an epiphany he had after the very first one, which he dreamed up after a loyal customer asked him to think of a creative Christmas gift. After the inaugural lesson, Yasu asked his wife Elizabeth, who had sat in on the class, if she had enjoyed it.
“I love you, darling, but …” she began, which Yasu immediately knew was precursor to criticism. “I couldn’t believe how boring it was.”
Yasu was shocked. He had been so excited about the idea of turning his customers into sushi chefs, and now he felt disillusioned by his wife’s cutting honesty.
But then something made sense to him…
“I know!” he said during a revelatory shower. “I need to make fun of my customers.”
And the rest is, more or less, history. In the first year, he offered three classes and didn’t promote them at all, only letting people know about them if they asked. Eventually, he ramped up to one class per month, but when demand grew even more, he increased the classes to weekly. Now, he hosts everyone from mother-and-daughter pairs, to couples and groups of friends, to politicians and businesspersons entertaining their clients, to corporate staffs seeking team-building experiences and professional hackers. Yes, professional hackers love sushi, too.
Yasu draws a diverse audience for good reason. The two-and-a-half-hour experience is one you’ll never forget, and if you do want to learn how to make sushi, there’s simply no substitution for learning from a master in-person. Part sushi-themed stand-up comedy, part storytelling, and part instruction, the class goes by faster than you can say “sliced.”
A few of the things to know before going to one of Yasu’s classes include: It’s Yasu’s way or the highway, prepare to sweet-talk your roll and come hungry!