Recently, more people are contacting Washoku Agent in order to recruit a sushi chef who can prepare an omakase course meal. To begin with, what is an omakase sushi chef? Where can we find one? If you want to know more about omakase sushi chefs, this article will answer all your questions.
1. What is Omakase?
Meaning of Omakase
Today, it is rare to see high-end sushi restaurants that serve only à la carte dishes. Most of the restaurants feature a so-called “omakase” style. The term means “to entrust” and customers ask the chef to prepare the whole meal with recommendations of the day within their budget.
Why Omakase is Popular among Sushi Restaurants
In general, high-end restaurants use the best seafood in season. If they have fresh ark shell today, it may be less so tomorrow. Or even though horse mackerel is not of great quality today, the chef may be able to buy the fish with a great fat content tomorrow. Only sushi chefs know the restaurant’s best ingredients of the day, so leaving the whole menu up to them is the most reliable and easiest way to have an exquisite sushi experience. In addition, you do not need to pick your courses and you can focus on your conversation. This is another reason why an omakase style is popular.
Benefits for Restaurants
On the other hand, an omakase style is also ideal for restaurants. First, they can limit the number of ingredients they purchase and lower the rate of the cost. In other words, they can spend more money on the limited options. Furthermore, many omakase restaurants have set times to start and end the meal, so that they do not need to deal with various orders at the same time. The operation can be much simpler at such a restaurant.
Omakase is Not Only for Sushi?
With a lot of benefits for both customers and restaurants, an omakase style is being introduced to fine dining restaurants of yakitori or yakiniku (Japanese BBQ) in the last few years. They are growing very popular, but still “omakase chefs” usually indicate sushi chefs.
2. Where Can We Find Omakase Chefs?
How Much is Omakase Course?
In Japan, an omakase course meal at high-end sushi restaurants costs from 10,000 to 30,000 JPY (approx. 90 to 270 USD) for dinner in general. Some restaurants serve an omakase-style lunch that starts at about 3,000 JPY (27 USD) and they are attracting a lot of customers.
Omakase Meal at Michelin-Starred Restaurants
Among the sushi restaurants listed in the Michelin Guide Tokyo 2021, 1 has three stars, 7 have two stars, and 22 have one star. All these 30 restaurants serve an omakase course meal.
How Many Chefs Can Provide Omakase Menu in Japan?
Tabelog, the largest restaurant review site in Japan, lists 32,000 sushi restaurants as of July 2021. About 2,300 of them show the price range of 10,000 JPY (90 USD) or more for dinner. If a sushi chef works at the counter of these restaurants, we can expect that they have a certain amount of experience and can serve an omakase-style meal. If we assume there are two chefs who make sushi in front of the customers at each restaurant, there could be about 5,000 sushi chefs who can provide an omakase course meal of decent quality in Japan.
3. What Skills Are Needed for Omakase Chefs?
Experience of Omakase Style
It is ideal that the chef has actually served an omakase course meal in front of customers.
Experience of Sushi and Washoku
People tend to imagine sushi when they hear the word omakase, but surprisingly there are not many restaurants that serve only sushi in an omakase style. They mostly offer sushi and another dish (small dishes called “tsumami”) or sushi and washoku (“washoku” here means traditional Japanese cuisine in general). Since it is difficult to hire a chef who are skilled in both sushi and washoku, successful omakase restaurants often have a team consisting of a sushi chef and washoku chef.
Inventing a Unique Course Meal
For sushi restaurants abroad, the variety of ingredients is inevitably limited even for the same budget as Japanese restaurants. It is also common that quality of the ingredients is not consistent from day to day, compared to Japan. So, these restaurants need flexibility and creativity to utilize local ingredients and invent a new course menu different from traditional meals in Japan. Sushi Sho that opened in Hawaii in 2016 drew attention by incorporating poke, a Hawaiian traditional dish, or locally grown green papaya instead of kanpyo (dried shavings of bottle gourd), in the course meal.
Management of the Cost and Sales Price
Generally, the percentage of food cost to sales prices is 30 to 40% for sushi restaurants in Japan, but it can amount to more than 50% in some cases. The chef needs to have math skills in order to control the ratio of ingredient cost to the sales prices that would also satisfy the customers.
Customers on average spend 1 to 2.5 hours over one omakase course meal. To keep them entertained, communication skills are staple even without language proficiency.
What If I Have a Problem in Hiring an Omakase Chef?
“I do not know what my restaurant should feature to attract omakase chefs.”
“I have an idea of the chefs I am looking for, but I do not know how to find them.”
“We tried to recruit on our own before without success, so we want to find a truly skillful omakase chef this time.”
“Since no staff member speak Japanese, we want to entrust the whole task of hiring Japanese omakase chefs to someone else.”
If you have a problem in recruiting Japanese sushi chefs, feel free to contact us Washoku Agent!