By Michael Nagrant
The contemplation of the cut, the hand to the knife, the flaying of flesh—this is his profession. Stealthy like a ninja, discreet like a geisha, and eviscerating like a samurai—he will be, is, what the fillet requires. Watching toro ribbon beneath his blade, the word “rote” comes to mind. But, that’s wrong. Though repetition and study have yielded to mastery, he acts as though he has mastered nothing. Each slice is treated like his first.
He would be an apt recruit for a king’s court, the man who tests for poison. Though he mixed the soy sauce a minute ago before dabbing it on a triangle of fluke, he tastes it again before flavoring a second piece. You never know. Something could fall from the ceiling. The sauce might evaporate and get too salty. Each piece tastes like the one before it.
He walks from his station, leaving his forged steel knife behind. A man sitting at the bar says he collects knives and asks the chef’s assistant if he could see it. The assistant rejects the patron’s request. The man at the bar pleads. The assistant looks around and lifts the knife so the patron can get a closer look. He sets it down again.
The chef returns and appraises his station. A mask of violation creeps across his face. He whispers, “Who touched my knife?” The assistant bows in shame, but there is no reprisal. The chef waves him off, smiles at his customers and continues cutting.
This sushi chef is Mr. Miyagi, trapping flies with chopsticks. I can’t abide the silence. I ask him how he knew? “I always put my knife down in the same direction.” It’s not complicated, but it is not simple. Discipline rarely is. Read the rest of this entry »