NEW YORK (Reuters) - Chef Chris Jaeckle’s desire to open a casual sushi eatery was undiminished despite the long hours he works running the kitchen of All’onda, the New York restaurant where he creates refined Italian dishes inspired by Japanese ingredients.
Last October, Jaeckle and former investment banker Cynthia Kueppers opened Uma Temakeria, a Brazilian-Japanese restaurant where they sell temaki, or cone-shaped sushi rolls, that have proven popular in the South American country.
The 36-year-old New York-born chef spoke to Reuters about his joint venture in temaki and the growing American appetite for higher-quality fast food.
Q: As a fine-dining chef, why did you want to open a casual Japanese restaurant?
A: It’s about accessibility. I love Japanese food. That and Italian food are the two I’m most passionate about. I already have the opportunity to cook Italian at All’onda so I was looking for another way to channel something I’m passionate about. I wanted to do something that is not as stuffy as what some people might think of as a sushi restaurant. You have the lower quality ones that don’t deliver in terms of things like freshness and quality of rice and fish.
Q: Is there an appetite for your temaki concept?
A: In my opinion, sushi has become American. There are California rolls, Boston rolls, Philadelphia rolls. These things have become what American culture is.
Q: Where did your love of Japanese food come from?
A: My grandfather and I built a Japanese fishing boat as a float for this parade at my elementary school, that was a real bonding moment. My grandmother taught me how to sew and we made a Japanese flag for the boat. It was a really good memory about learning the culture. I was about 8 to 9 years old.
Q: What inspired you to become a chef?
A: Making tacos at home when I was in high school and I was about 15 years old. I was searing the ground meat and added the flavor pack in. The cumin and the spices hit the pan and they started permeating. I was smelling it and I thought: ‘I could do this, I think I’m going to give this a shot.’
Q: What is your comfort food?
A: Noodles of any form, sushi and rice
Editing by Patricia Reaney and Alan Crosby