Sushi Chefs are food preparation experts who go through years of training. In addition to sushi, Sushi Chefs are also experts in preparing other Japanese dishes such as udon, tempura and ramen. In Japan, sushi chefs are called Itamae and their skill is mastering the making of sushi rolls, which also requires skill in cutting raw dishes.

Sushi chefs learn how to make traditional Japanese sushi rice and prepare different types of fish. Sushi chefs can be found in most Japanese restaurants around the world.

However, to become a sushi chef, one needs a lot of determination and patience. The Japanese call it a lifelong commitment to become a sushi chef, and it takes many years to acquire the title of "Itamae".

Here are the steps you need to take to become a sushi chef:

  1. Everyone starts as a kitchen apprentice

Start learning at the Culinary School, where you will learn how to make sushi. Then, each chef starts his or her career as a kitchen apprentice. The Japanese consider this the best way to learn the art of sushi making. Their view is that work and learning start from the bottom and work gradually upwards. Culinary schools alone are not enough to teach students the discipline required to become Itamae - sushi chefs.

Initially, apprentices start their apprenticeship with cleaning tasks, which include washing and cleaning in the kitchen, as excellent craftsmen know that hard work is required. When a kitchen apprentice proves his worth, the master will give them a promotion.

  1. Rice preparation

Every sushi chef knows that the foundation of sushi is rice. Once an apprentice has mastered the skill through cleaning tasks, he has become a successful kitchen apprentice for the master. The next step to becoming a sushi chef is to know the art of rice preparation.

Making the perfect sushi rice is not an easy job and is an art of preparation. Moreover, the preparation of rice requires style and precision. Teachers only give the task of preparing rice to a trusted apprentice. The Master Chef or Itamae will watch the student closely as he simultaneously makes the rice and mixes it with vinegar and salt. When students show that they can make good quality sushi rice without the supervision of a sushi chef, the master chef will encourage them to become wakiita.

  1. Wakiita Postures

Wakiita means working with a chopping board. Despite being close to becoming sushi chefs, it will still take a lot of training and years before Wakiita works like Itamae. Wakiita's responsibilities include the preparation of fish, capers and wasabi. Wakiita, who is a trainee, is entrusted with many tasks in the sushi kitchen. During this phase, Wakiita learns to use a sushi knife. Knowing how to use a sushi knife is a remarkable achievement in sushi making. Initially, the sushi apprentice must first learn how to cut garlic, only then will the master chef allow him to start cutting seafood. When Itamae allows an apprentice sushi chef to use a sushi knife, it most likely means that the apprentice is ready to become a sushi chef.

  1. Birth of the new Itamae

Finally, after years of apprenticeship and demanding training, an apprentice will become a sushi chef. As he will be appointed Itamae, the new sushi chef will make his art and style of handling ingredients his own. The new sushi chef must learn how to interact with customers and develop a good relationship with the staff in the sushi kitchen.

  1. Mastering the art of being a professional sushi chef

But the appointment of Itamae does not stop the learning. After 10 years, the sushi chef earns the esteemed title of 'Itamae-san', or sushi legend. By this time, the sushi chef can create perfect hand-pressed sushi with rice and grains rolled in the same way.

Becoming a sushi chef takes a long time, traditionally up to ten years. Becoming a sushi legend, or Itamae-san, takes at least another seven years.

Itamae has other duties and responsibilities to fulfil. Sushi chefs need to learn about nigiri, its famous rolls and the creation of other special rolls. They must continuously improve their skills in cutting both raw fish and vegetables. At the same time, sushi chefs must demonstrate exceptional knife skills. The knife is one of the tools of every sushi chef. Handling a knife requires style, as the sushi chef is expected to have the cooking talent to make sushi with consistency and speed.

Sushi masters must have the ability to mass produce special sushi rolls. They must also know how to make individual temaki, sushi rolls and sashimi cuts. Their knowledge also includes the proper storage of raw fish and knowing which fish are available in which season. They are also constantly learning to improve their skills. They need to know how to create shaped rice cakes. They also need to know the right balance of vinegar and rice and how it will blend with the raw fish served. In addition, consistency and precision are essential for the taste of sushi rolls.


Finally, a sushi chef must also be courteous, both to his assistants and staff, and to his customers. Sushi masters usually work in open kitchens, as their customers can directly observe the preparation of the rolls and sushi, which is why interaction with customers is so important.

It is the many years of effort, as well as the personal qualities of the chef and the meticulous preparation of the meal, that make the dishes so special for us diners in Japanese restaurants. Japanese sushi masters' dishes are made to perfection in terms of both taste and aesthetics, which makes them exceptional to such an extent that the art itself and sushi restaurants have spread all over the world.