Biwako Comes to Ann Arbor
While he learned a lot of sushi-craft in Korea, Kwon learned his most productive lessons working in an Ann Arbor Japanese restaurant: "Five sushi chefs would get together every Sunday and cook for each other. I was always trying to imitate the chef from Chicago whose sushi was prettier, neater than anyone else's." Then he learned that the beautiful-sushi-maker from Chicago was not the star chef.
"He had come to Ann Arbor to learn from another one of the sushi chefs--one whose sushi didn't look so good. This didn't make any sense to me. But as I continued to eat the sushi of all these chefs, I saw for myself that the sushi that tasted best was always from this chef whose sushi was not the best looking. Why?"
Kwon explains his own riddle: "Sushi is about the rice. You must be able to taste every grain." Kwon often answers questions by telling a brief story, making him sound like a Zen master (or at least an outtake from a Bruce Lee movie). But the thirty-eight-year-old Kwon claims he's not a Buddhist, a scholar, or a philosopher, just a guy who knows a thing or two about sushi. Anyone, he says, can smash together a pillow of rice and lay a slice of fish on it, but the fish isn't much of a mystery. "You pay twenty bucks more, you get better fish," he shrugs--that part of the equation has nothing to do with the chef. The quest of the sushi chef is to make rice hold together while applying minimal pressure to it.