Oona Tempest is a world-class sushi chef whose cuisine could satisfy the palate of even the pickiest sushi connoisseurs.

Becoming a sushi chef is a great honor, especially since it can sometimes take years and years of training to even be allowed to touch the fish. When the results are like Sukibayashi Jiro’s world-famous Michelin star-earning sushi, it’s not really surprising. But what is surprising is that female sushi chefs are far less common, and far less respected, than their male counterparts all over the world.

But Oona Tempest is here to prove that women can make delicious sushi too. The 25-year-old is head chef at Sushi by Bae, a New York City Edo-style sushi shop that is famous for its 90-minute chef-designed omakase course meal. Tempest’s sushi is striking in both flavor and appearance; though it’s a little on the small side and looks somewhat delicate, it is also artfully created with design in mind.

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Oona Tempest // Sushi by Bae.

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She didn’t always want to be a sushi chef, however. Initially, her dream of being an artist brought her to NYC. After graduating from art school, her friend, a waitress at a sushi restaurant called Tanoshi Sushi Sake Bar, asked her if she could help waiting tables. That ended up being her first step into the world of sushi-making.

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Shirauo // Icefish. PC: @ogurayutaro

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Apparently, the head chef at Tanoshi, Toshio Oguma, liked to invite all of the waitstaff to try to make sushi, but even at the beginning of her time at Tanoshi, Tempest impressed him because she was able to make perfect sushi with beautiful presentation. Soon she became his apprentice, and she began to learn the history of sushi, the different fish, and the different flavors of fish from him.

Oguma and Tempest were both featured in the documentary The Sushi Chef, which was made by YouTube channel Munchies. In it, the two chefs tell their story about how they came to be sushi chefs. Tempest says that it wasn’t actually the taste that got her interested in making sushi; instead, it was the texture of it and how the ingredients felt in her hands. This was the spark that lit the flame of her passion for sushi, and which led her to her current career as a top-notch sushi chef.

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Sayori with Ume and Shiso // PC: @tkretchmar

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But her artistic schooling wasn’t in vain; her sense of artistic design is obvious in her plates. It’s evident in the way her food is arranged in her omakase course meals and in the shape of her sushi. In fact, she considers making sushi a form of art in itself. “A skillful sushi chef is a skillful graphic designer,” she says, “So, to me, making sushi behind the counter is a kind of performance art.”

Not only does Tempest now work as head chef of a top sushi restaurant in NYC, but she was also named one of the Zagat Survey’s Top 30 Under 30 Chefs at just 23 years of age. Hopefully, Tempest, along with other female sushi chefs like those at Nadeshico Sushi, can challenge the assumption that women cannot make good sushi by continuing to serve their delicious and artful morsels.

Sources: Sushi By BaeInstagram/@sushibybaeInstagram/@oonatempest
Featured image: Instagram/@sushibybae
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