Athens High School culinary arts students were treated to a unique cooking demonstration when Taher, Inc. Corporate Chef John Sugimura visited their class. Not only were students given a lot of information on Japanese culture and cuisine, but they also were able to participate in making and eating gyoza, the popular Japanese pan-fried thin dumpling.
Chef Sugimura’s goal is to make Japan easier to understand, keep it socially relevant, and he “works to preserve and share the history of incarcerated Japanese Americans to promote equity and justice today through the universal language of food” as he travels around the country to share his knowledge.
Sugimura told of his single-parent grandmother-chef who lost everything including the family restaurant when she was sent to the WW2 Tule Lake internment camp. He is a third-generation Japanese American and second-generation professionally trained chef with decades of rigorous training.
Chef Sugimura is third-generation “Sansei” and silver-ranked Japanese chef who meets Japanese nationality requirements, took lessons and acquired knowledge and skills regarding Japanese cuisine at the prestigious Japanese cooking institution Sushi Institute of America and has practical experience in a Japanese restaurant located in and outside of Japan.
Sugimura has more than a little experience as he is chef/owner of multiple top-ranked restaurants and will be one of the featured competitive chefs in the upcoming season of Iron Chef.
Students also learned how Japanese food is cooked much healthier and with only 17 main ingredients, none of which include dairy. Students watched how the gyoza is folded and then some were able to try the technique themselves. After a few tries, it was clear that it wasn’t as easy as they thought, but it proved to be fun.
Then, multiple student chefs helped plate the dish with purple cabbage and a radish slice while the gyoza were crisped in the pan. Quite a few students were a little timid to try the dish, but soon found they went back for extras.
This culinary experience is one that Taher, Inc, the food management company for Athens ISD, brings to the schools they work with. Known as “The Food People”, they want to share their passion for cooking from scratch, partnership with farmers and dietitians, and traveling chefs to maintain a culture of global food awareness and appreciation.
Over the course of two days, Athens High School and Athens Middle School students were treated to Japanese fried chicken bowls for lunch which were prepared by Taher’s school chefs and Chef Sugimura.
AHS culinary students who will be in a competition soon where they have to prepare an appetizer and main dish are looking fondly at a Japanese dish to present after seeing this presentation.