I have come to a conclusion: Western chefs could easily benefit from incorporating aspects of Omakase into their skill set. I have come to this conclusion based on no facts, figures, and only a rudimentary knowledge of maintaining restaurant profit margins. In fact, I make this statement based on nothing other that I think it’s a cool idea.
For those of you unfamiliar with Omakase, it’s practice found at Sushi restaurants. The word translates into something along the lines of “Chef, I’m in your hands” and it means that the sushi chef will provide you a meal based on either:
- what they believe you will like best
- whatever the heck the chef feels like making you
Either way, if you order omakase, you get a real feel for the personality and temperament of the sushi chef.
In Seattle, I have had omakase at five different places on several occasions. From those experiences, I can tell you which chef is a traditionalist, which one carries a workman-like approach to sushi, and which one likes to take risks. This helps me choose which sushi place I wish to visit on any particular evening, based off my mood.
I think that this is because Omakase creates a bond (of sorts) between you and the chef, especially if you happen to sit at the sushi bar where you can watch the chef prepare your meal. Such a bond is less likely at western restaurants as the wait staff acts as an intermediary and the chef is restricted to the menu.
Imagine walking into your favorite Italian restaurant, and you let the chef know that they can make you whatever they want with whatever they have on hand. To me, I can imagine chefs feeling briefly let loose from the restrictions of the menu and daily specials, allowing them to try new techniques (and possibly recipes) or introduce lesser known Italian dishes to their favorite customers.
However, it may be that this wish is impractical in the modern restaurant. Chefs and cooks will e-mail me and state “Kate! You clearly don’t know what you are talking about”. That may be.
But a gal can dream, can’t she?