Oona Tempest, New York’s Sushi Prodigy
Oona Tempest is one of the few women to have stepped behind the sushi counter and opened her own restaurant.
Already considered one of the best sushi chefs in New York, Oona Tempest, born in 1993, continues to impress food critics with the culinary prowess she displays at such a young age. The indefatigable chef has climbed the ladder to the height of opening two restaurants where she favours experimentation, but above all the traditional production of sushi. All this is accomplished using fish species commonly found during the Edo period in Japan.
How and through whom did you discover sushi?
I discovered sushi when I began waitressing at Tanoshi Sushi on the Upper East Side in 2013. My role as a waitress gradually developed into an apprenticeship with chef Toshio Oguma. He taught me everything I know and I will always be thankful to him.
How did you get to where you are today?
I started out as a waitress at Tanoshi Sushi and then trained to become a chef with my mentor Toshio Oguma, before moving behind the sushi counter. To hone my craft, I worked at Sushi Ginza Onodera before opening the first Sushi by Bae pop-up, which then became a permanent establishment.
The universe you work in is traditionally dominated by men, as women are considered unable to make proper sushi, especially during their menstrual cycle. How do you feel as a woman in the industry?
There certainly isn’t the same camaraderie and level of support as there is between men, so I progress on my own.
What is your favourite item on the menu?
Right now I would say the sardines. They are fatty and have a very complex umami flavour profile that comes out in the summer.
How did your artistic studies influence your culinary career?
I went from an art studio to a sushi restaurant, where I still work for nine hours straight. Overall, it doesn’t feel like a big lifestyle change; my daily work is still synonymous with stamina and rigour. My artistic background makes me pay attention to every detail. I craft every piece of sushi meticulously, as if it were a work of art. I feel like I’m creating a beautiful sculpture when I make a nigiri.
Sushi by bae118A E 15th Street, New York, NY 10003
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