How to Be a Sushi Chef

An apprenticeship could help you to become a sushi chef.

Nowadays, it seems like almost everyone — and her grandmother, no less — loves sushi, and you can probably count at least one friend who considers herself a connoisseur. Let’s be honest, it’s no longer an exotic dish that people shy away from just because some of it’s…well, served raw. Though its popularity has definitely experienced a spike, there’s an art to its creation. If you’re looking to become a sushi chef, it takes a bit more than learning how to boil rice.

    Enroll in a “traditional” culinary arts program at a community or technical college. These programs can take anywhere from two to four years to complete, but you’ll walk away with an extensive knowledge of all aspects of kitchen work, which can serves as a solid background for your sushi training.

    Apply to a sushi chef academy. Few exist in the United States, so open yourself up to relocating. As of 2012, most programs are found in Los Angeles, California, but talk to an academic advisor about other opportunities than may have cropped up around the nation.

    Seek out a formal apprenticeship in sushi arts. Apprenticeship programs are usually sponsored by professional culinary institutes, so your alma mater could set you up with an opportunity at a local sushi restaurant, where you’ll learn proper knife skills, fish preparation, presentation techniques and how to make sushi rice, among other skills. Apprenticeships vary, but expect a two-year commitment on your part.

    Consider testing for advanced certifications. Though voluntary, a professional certification could mean the difference between a job and the unemployment line. The All Japan Sushi Association (AJSA), for example, offers certificates in sushi proficiency, professional sushi skills levels one, two and three and certified master sushi.


    • As with apprenticeships, mentorship programs are also available in the culinary arts. You may want to talk to your academic advisor about a mentorship at a sushi restaurant, where you work directly with an experienced sushi chef to learn the art of preparing and presenting this traditional Japanese cuisine.

2016 Salary Information for Chefs and Head Cooks

Chefs and head cooks earned a median annual salary of $43,180 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, chefs and head cooks earned a 25th percentile salary of $32,230, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $59,080, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 146,500 people were employed in the U.S. as chefs and head cooks.

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