All About Luke's Local Sushi: An Interview with Chef Nicolette

April 02, 2024

All About Luke's Local Sushi: An Interview with Chef Nicolette

When we launched our in-house sushi program, we knew we wanted to do it differently. We wanted "grocery store sushi" to be fresh, delicious, and high quality. We sat down with Head Chef Nicolette to learn a little bit more about how our sushi program came to be!

 

Why did we want to introduce sushi as a part of the Luke’s offering? 

When I go to the grocery store, I don’t even stop to look at the sushi because it’s usually made with such low quality ingredients. Most commercially produced sushi has food coloring added to make the fish look brighter. There is often also corn syrup used to season the sushi rice as well as the pickled ginger. We realized we had a great opportunity to make sushi with real ingredients that we would actually eat and buy so we took it on and we did it!

 

What’s a little history about the origin of sushi?

Sushi was originally created as a way to preserve fish. Fish was fermented with salt, rice and vinegar which preserved the fish while the rice was discarded.  As time went on, people started eating the rice as well and used vinegar to season the rice rather than fermenting it.  This became very popular and sushi continued to evolve to what it is today. 


What about the Luke’s local sushi program are you excited about? 

I really love the quality, simplicity and natural products used to make our sushi.  I’ve had the opportunity to go to Japan several times, so I very much appreciate the sushi style of few ingredients and letting the fish and rice quality shine.  Often the CA sushi style incorporates a lot of non-traditional ingredients like cream cheese and mayo, and the sushi rolls are heavy and huge. We really like to respect the Japanese culture where sushi originates. We like to have fun but always keep the quality of ingredients in mind.  For example, the new CA Roll has real rock crab, meyer lemon juice, avocado and Luke’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Definitely not Japanese - but it is still respecting the ingredients, letting them shine, and honoring our local CA ingredients. 


How is our program different than your typical grocery store sushi program? 

Again, it’s all about the quality of ingredients. Our sushi is made with all natural ingredients and is hand-made each morning. Often, large scale sushi production is made the day before and extra water is added to the rice since it dries out over time, which makes the rice a terrible texture. We make our own seasoned sushi vinegar with just rice vinegar and cane sugar. Commercially made sushi vinegar is often a mix of corn syrup and glucose syrup. Even soy sauce is often low quality and not actually real soy sauce. We use San-J tamari which is naturally brewed in the traditional style.  All of these little things make a huge difference when it comes to sushi, since there are so few ingredients that go together to make that great bite.  The rice needs to be cooked just right and seasoned just right. The fish needs to be fresh and cut perfectly and all the ingredients need to be high quality so they can all shine.


Where do you draw inspiration from when thinking about what kind of sushi you want to offer? 

We like to think about the ingredients and how Japanese and CA culture work within each offering. The salmon nigiri and roll is very simple and traditional but one of the most popular. A less traditional offering that still uses Japanese ingredients is actually our most popular item. The Togarashi Salmon Roll is a customer favorite.  Usually, togarashi is used as a seasoning for Ramen.  In Japanese culture, there is not a lot of spice used beyond Ramen seasoning. But us Californians love the spice! We mix togarashi seasoning along with sesame oil and tamari to create a flavorful and non traditional roll while using traditional Japanese ingredients.  We’re always trying to think of ways to be creative while still respecting the food and the culture. 

 





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