What is so eye-opening for me, though, is the fact that so many cooks out there have absolutely no clue about how to make sushi. Not that this is a bad thing. Like any other cuisine, it takes years, even decades, of practice and focus to even come close to mastering the flavors and techniques. I personally leave it to the experts and tend to be a purist and absolute snob when it comes to my sushi. There is one place in NYC that has ruined me for all other sushi, Restaurant Ichimura, and I tend to spend an obscene amount of money on what is the most sublime sushi. (Besides, if you are going to spend a lot of money on anything, it had better be to ensure the quality of your raw fish.) I've been fortunate enough to have done a short stage at Nobu in California, and also work with a few good sushi chefs.
A couple of years back, The French Culinary celebrated its 20th anniversary with a tremendous gala after the 2004 James Beard Awards. We transformed every kitchen in the school into a different themed culinary extravaganza. I was put completely in charge of the sushi and sake room. Let's just say it's a well-known fact that many people leave the awards hungry because the food disappears faster than you can say, "California Roll." My trusty team of chefs and I, from which three out of five of us had never made sushi before in their lives, put out a RIDICULOUS amount of sushi that evening. And we maki-ed and nigiri-ed our way through five hours of a non-stop crushing crowd. So I know how to make sushi. But it is the kind of sushi that pales in comparison to the spectacular work of a seasoned master such as Chef Shima. (Love that Marcel called him a "bad ass.") Again, I'll leave it to the pros.
It's interesting how the challenge was to create a sushi dish, and several of the contestants created composed raw dishes.