A couple weeks ago, I participated as a judge in a grand Sushi battle, pitting local Chef Tim Cushman, of O Ya Restaurant, against Chef Hisayoshi Iwa, of Sushi Iwa in Japan. The event was held at the Clarke Studio in Milford and was filmed for ABC Asahi Broadcasting, a national Japanese TV network, for their prime time cooking competition. You can check out one of their prior episodes here, though please know that it is all in Japanese. So, when this new episode airs, everything I said will be dubbed into Japanese.
Alison Arnett (a food writer and restaurant consultant), Dr. Merry White (Professor of Anthropology at Boston University & the author of several books on Japan), Jolyon Helterman (a food writer at Boston magazine), and Robert Goree (Assistant Professor of Japanese at Wellesley College). An excellent team with plenty of knowledge and experience. I was honored to be a part of this group.
At the beginning of the day, we all had to sign a release as the event was being televised, but there apparently was a mix-up. The first release form they gave us had a strange paragraph, "8. I am not gangster." Maybe that was for a different show, Sleeping With The Fishes. We quickly got the correct release, which didn't have such language and we were set to go.
For this contest, each chef had to prepare three courses, including 3 Sashimi dishes, 6 different pieces of Nigiri, and 1 Lobster Maki roll (as they wanted to highlight a famed, local ingredient). And the chefs only had one hour to complete all of their dishes. The chefs had already done the shopping for their dishes, and knew what they wanted to prepare when they arrived at the studio kitchen. This wasn't really a timed competition as such, but more a comparison of techniques and styles.
I didn't dislike a single item I ate, and didn't leave any fish on my plates. Both chefs excelled, creating a compelling collection of sushi. However, there were significant differences between the styles of the two chefs, which made judging even more difficult. How do you choose between two different styles, when both are so excellent? In some ways, it was not a fair comparison, but we judges needed to make a decision.
What I can say is that both of these chefs are winners, having created excellent dishes which any Sushi lover would thoroughly enjoy. They each gave it their all, valiant competitors who showcased their skills and experience. Each chef should be absolutely proud of their efforts and hold their head up high.