The link between a meal and an electrifying experience is usually a great Chef… and Chef Parker, at “Jade Sushi & New Asian” in Orlando, Florida, works hard to make sure every meal is the best experience possible!
Growing up, Chef Parker never really thought that much about cooking. “I was an orphan, adopted by American parents, but that wasn’t the best situation, so I was on my own when I was sixteen years old. I was trying to make my way, living with friends, and I went to school to be an electrician. I began working as an electrician’s assistant, but it didn’t pay very well at all, so I knew I had to find something else to cover the bills. I had a friend who has really been like an older sister to me, and she was working as a server in a Japanese restaurant, so she let me know that they were hiring for cleanup help in the kitchen, and I started washing dishes there.”
The kitchen is always a busy place to work, and the growth in popularity of the restaurant made the demands in the kitchen much higher, and soon Chef Parker was asked to help in the preparation process. “The owner’s wife had started working in the kitchen, we were so busy, and one day she asked me to help her make the Tempura. I had never cooked before, but I said ‘sure’ and she showed me what to do, and I started cooking. She said I was good at it, so she had me cooking in the kitchen on the weekends, making Tempura and working the grill.”
Sometimes, “Luck” is defined as “ability and desire meeting opportunity,” and it was not long before Chef Parker had a big opportunity. “A few weeks later, the restaurant was really busy, and the owner, who was the Sushi Chef and later became my Sushi Master, came in and asked me to help him make the California Rolls… so I did the best I could, and he was so surprised! He kept telling me that I made them as good as he did, and he became my mentor, and he started teaching me how to make the dishes, to filet the fish, make all the different types of Sushi… and that’s how I became a Sushi Chef!”
Chef Parker believes that experience and creativity work hand in hand when cooking. “I have worked at a lot of restaurants these last twenty years, and you pick up a lot of things, little tricks and ideas that stick with you, and you grow in the understanding of what you are doing… this really comes together as your own ‘process’ when you are being creative with your menu, or even with a dish. You realize how to put things together to make the food unique, to make it more enjoyable and memorable, and it all just ‘clicks’ and comes together on the plate. I think that is what my mentor saw in me, not only the ability to learn but also to grow… even though I had not cooked before. Now I am much more skilled, with the knife, with my inspiration, and my love to innovate… whether learning from another Chef, a magazine article, or a book, I love to create and put my own spin on it.”
Chef Parker has an interesting take on the one most important kitchen tool a chef should have. “For any Chef, Sushi Chef or Kitchen Chef, you have to have a good knife, and you have to know how to take care of that knife. A lot of Chefs either don’t know how to do this or just don’t care, but your knife has to be like your second wife, you need to cut things right and not mess them up, so it is the most important tool in the kitchen.” He also points out that a really good Chef will have several knives that he or she will use to do a variety of jobs, but there will always be a favorite knife that the Chef will use primarily to do just about any job in the kitchen.
When asked about his method for making Sushi, Chef Parker is quick to say fresh ingredients and proper preparation. “Rice is the first and most important thing to prepare, and it has to be made just right, to have the best consistency. A lot of places just tell anyone in the kitchen to make the rice, but I feel that is a mistake, because rice is the canvas for your Sushi Art. In my kitchen, only myself and my right hand man, who I have taught, make the rice… after that, it is time to get the fish and the other ingredients ready. The longer you are in this business, the more able you are to estimate how much you will need to prepare for any given day… even if someone asks for a special dish, I already have the ingredients ready.”
“Nowadays, everyone who walks into a Sushi House thinks ‘rolls,’ but traditional Sushi doesn’t really have that many rolls. ‘Nigiri’ or ‘Sashimi’ is what a traditional Sushi Chef makes, but there are only a few really good traditional Sushi Chefs around. I was taught traditional, and it is hard to do traditional these days, and since there are so few traditional Sushi teachers, people expect the rolls, which are much easier to make and sell. Very traditional Sushi also requires the freshest fish possible, so you have to know how to take care of the fish when you get it… you can’t just wrap it up and put it in the freezer, that is not fresh fish. Yet this is what a lot of places do, which I guess is just lazy or because the Chefs don’t know how to care for the fish.”
“Jade Sushi & New Asian” is known for its sushi, but it is also a full service “Asian Fusion” restaurant. “When you come to ‘Jade Sushi & New Asian,’ you can expect to be served the freshest food possible, in the most traditional way, but also with a little bit of a ‘modern’ twist. We have great food that comes out of our kitchen, and it is a fusion of Asian cuisine, so a guest can get Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and many other cultural dishes, which means we don’t just serve the Sushi lovers, but anyone who loves Asian Cuisine!”
Be sure to stop by “Jade Sushi & New Asian” whenever you need your sushi or Asian cuisine craving satisfied. Located at 2425 Edgewater Drive in Orlando, Florida, you will discover not only traditional tastes, but also innovative and deliciously different fare that is sure to bring you back, time and time again. Lunch and dinner hours are strictly followed, so check the schedule and your watch, but you will love the friendly atmosphere and wonderfully fresh tastes that “Jade Sushi & New Asian” brings right to your table!
Produced by: Irina Pabis
Photo/Video by: Richard Pabis
Written by: David Morizot