Ramona sushi chef to be featured on Japanese TV

Kenrix chef Emily Main arranges sushi rolls on a plate during the filming of a show set to be aired Dec. 25 on the Japanese  network, TV Tokyo.Sentinel photos/Karen Brainard
Kenrix chef Emily Main arranges sushi rolls on a plate during the filming of a show set to be aired Dec. 25 on the Japanese network, TV Tokyo.Sentinel photos/Karen Brainard

By Karen Brainard

On Christmas Day, residents of Japan will be watching Ramona’s Emily Main starring in a variety show on TV Tokyo.

The 19-year-old sushi chef will be seen preparing specialties at Kenrix Sushi Co. in Ramona, where she works and where she was filmed on Nov. 26 under the direction of Japanese Director Hiroyuki Kato. A special Dec. 25 episode of “Big Sunday Variety” will feature Main on the Japanese network.

Main said she was worried before doing the show, but added: “My teacher and the whole staff and customers who came in were really, really nice to me.”

The filming took place shortly after Main returned from spending almost two weeks in Japan under the tutelage of master chef Shigenobu Kihara, revered as the number one sushi chef in Hokkaido, the second largest island in Japan.

Hokkaido is known for producing very good fish in its waters, according to Tak Itomi of Americanism and LA-Pan Adventures of Los Angeles, one of many helping out on the day of filming.

Surprising Main that day was Kihara, who flew in from Japan and came to Kenrix for the filming.

“She was completely floored. She had no idea,” said Main’s mother, Karen Arozco.

Speaking through Itomi, who acted as interpreter, Kihara lauded Main’s talents. Most sushi chefs in Japan are male and Main was the first female sushi chef that Kihara had taught, Itomi said.

“She has a Japanese spirit,” he said.

That spirit, he added, is more than most Japanese students her age possess. “She has a passion to learn,” said Kihara.

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Emily Main of Ramona gives the thumbs up with master sushi chef Shigenobu Kihara from Japan.

Kihara explained that sushi is not just about food, but about spirit, and Main already knew the Japanese culture when she came for the course he taught. Itomi said the master chef would welcome her back for more training “so she could be the best female sushi chef in Japan.”

While in Japan, Main stayed with Kihara and his family and said she called him “Taishyo” which means “boss.” She is keeping in touch with his 22-year-old daughter through Facebook. Main said she knows a little of the Japanese language as she took a course a few years ago.

Her road to becoming a sushi chef began at an early age.

“It’s like I just knew,” Main said. “Even when I was 12 years old, I tried to make sushi.”

At 16 years old, she graduated from Santa Cruz High School. She then attended a community college in Santa Cruz for 1½ years, which was followed by attending and graduating from the Sushi Chef Institute in Torrance.

“I’d say it was a pretty good decision,” said Main.

Recognition of her skills by the Sushi Chef Institute landed her the expense-free trip and training in Japan.

Dr. Akiko Agishi, president of Creative Enterprise International Inc. in Los Angeles, said the Japanese network was producing a show and wanted to have three sushi chefs, each from a different country with one being the U.S. She contacted the Sushi Chef Institute and staff recommended Main.

“I was very surprised but when I met her, she was very good,” said Agishi.

Agishi also said she was surprised to find such a nice sushi restaurant in Ramona. During the filming, Agishi worked with the director, cinematographer and the “extras” who sat around the sushi bar, watching Main prepare the Japanese specialties. The extras asked questions and offered comments as the camera rolled.

Earlier in the day, Main was filmed at home where she lives with her mother and stepfather, Al Arozco, and the day after, Main said she was filmed with her horses at the ranch where they are boarded.

Unfortunately, Main will not be able to view the reality show on Christmas Day as she does not have access to the TV Tokyo network. She will have to wait until she receives a DVD of the show. In the meantime she has made plans to start attending a culinary program at Grossmont College in January to expand her knowledge.

“I think it would help me a lot to learn more…I know a lot about Japanese food,” she said.

Main said she also plans to work and save money to go back to Japan.

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Japanese Director Hiroyuki Kato, left, oversees the filming at Kenrix Sushi Co. for a show featuring sushi chef Emily Main who is behind the sushi bar with Kenrix owner Jama McCluskey. "Extras" sit at the bar and watch. Jama owns the sushi restaurant with husband, Rick.
   
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