I have been working in the industry for over 20+ years. I recently moved to LA to be closer to family. My last job was as a sushi chef, which I loved and been doing for the past 7 years. And I’ve been trying to obtain a similar position at a high end sushi restaurant here in LA. Many of the places I’ve applied to have been Japanese owned. At one of the places I’ve applied to, they did not hire someone with my years of experience but chose to go with Asian chefs that had similar or less experience. I am Mexican born in the states. Is it me, or are the establishments here in LA racist? All of the places I applied to so far have had Asian chefs working at the sushi bar while Latinos hide and work in the back kitchen. I pride myself in having kickass knife skills better than a lot of sushi chefs I know and have even showed them so. But these places in LA just don’t seem to want to give me a chance. I am beginning to wonder if it’s for clientele purposes. They come in, see a dark Mexican guy making their sushi and go some place else with an Asian sushi chef that speaks broken English with a Japanese accent. I can somewhat understand it in a business perspective, but I am really beginning to wonder if it’s just me that thinks this way. I also wonder if it's my age. I am nearing 50 and I see most sushi chefs to be younger. I am losing patience. I am considering giving up sushi all together and go back to working in the kitchen again. even though sushi is my passion and hoped to pursue it further.
Hello. I am new here and came here for answers for my frustration in this business
do not give up !
this is, as you know very frustrating business in a lot of ways. You have chosen to work in a very specialized field, and yes it migh possible be racist, but eventually you will find someone who will let you do what you want to do.
Is there a market for a sushi-mex fusion cafe :)
It has been a long time since I was in LA, but perhaps somewhere like Chinois might be good for your skills.
When I first came to France I could not speak much French and I was a white American/ Brit, cooking modern classical French food, The French were not happy :), but i stayed because it was what i wanted to do, and where I wanted to do it. I spent nearly 6 months without work, broke and living on a friends floor. But it was worth it, because I am still here, Head chef, in France, and they can all go ***k themselves :)
I don't think I'd call this racism, more like technically racial discrimination based on the restaurant's cultural presentation and ambience, from the food and décor right down to the employee's accents and yes, their nationality.
And I would think that "genuine" atmosphere would be even more important to them in a high end establishment. That is not to say there's no job for you here in LA, you have the skills and I believe that for every 4 or 5 that will opt for the less experienced, "cultural-profile", there's bound to be one who would be open to....mixing it up a bit.
I can feel your frustration on this matter but like santona said, you've chosen a very specific field. Granted that you got good at it, making you want to pursue for greatness, however it won't go much further than that. I live in NYC, I go eat sushi often and when I see non japanese sushi chef, I think its whatever (if its a typical place), now if I go high end, I expect to see a Japanese sushi chef, same goes for when I go to hibachi and see a non-asian chef doing tricks, it just feels phony, not authentic (shrugs).
You also don't have age on your side, especially high end spots, they tend to hire young attractive talents ( go to any 4-5 star restaurant in the big city, you'll see what I mean) Its just how society is, was, and won't change anytime soon.
None the less, you shouldn't give up just because of adversity. Instead, think outside the box. Use your skills to consult, teach, cater. Perhaps even opening your very own mexi-sushi and hire only the best brown sushi chef! the list goes on, you don't have to trap yourself..
Thank you for all your responses and support. I really do appreciate it. Sushi has become my passion and I am not giving up on it yet. I continue my search. I am so happy to have found this community. My last job was actually in Japan. A former colleague of mine moved back there to help his family with the restaurant there that they own. They wanted to train me since they were looking for English speaking chefs in the location where it was tourist hot spot. And well, I ended up going there with him, did the grunt work as I learned the ropes, and caught on pretty quickly. I learned sushi from real Japanese sushi chefs in Japan. I even learned to speak a fair amount of Japanese. Finding something in sushi is my goal, but I am not limiting my options, as I have bills to pay and mouths to feed in the meantime. I have been applying at various places. I went to a stage today at an Italian restaurant. I think it went well. If I can’t find what I am looking for soon, I might just have to take a less desired offer. I do have other options, but wow finding a job, a good job in LA is tough. Not only is finding the job I want in sushi nearly impossible, but I had been turned down for an executive chef job (at a hotel) about a month ago. And this was kind of me settling but still getting turned down simply for the fact that my Spanish level was not up to par they told me. I am and look 100% Mexican. But when I speak, I sound like a white man from the suburbs. I was adopted when I was five. Growing up, I was the only brown kid. I was constantly picked on in the all whites schools. But that is another story. I know a thing or two about discrimination. I hope I don’t sound like a bitter whiner, but sometimes I do really get fed up with the job search in LA. It’s been nearly six months since I have been here. I am starting to feel like so much prejudice is placed on ethnicity and language. There are so many odds against me due to my ethnicity, age, and what I can and cannot speak. They won’t hire me because I am Mexican. They won't hire me because I am a little older. They won’t hire me because I don’t speak Spanish. Where is the justice? I do feel a little better after venting. Thank you for all your support and encouragement. Although I am obviously frustrated, I refuse to give up. Even if I do end up finding another job, I will continue my search. I don't feel good about it and might feel guilty towards the employer, but I need to find ways to pay the bills somehow until I find my ideal job.
While I agree, that oftentimes age plays a role in hiring, especially in positions that include face-to-face customer contact, I think that Sushi places are often an exception to that "rule." While they might hire, the "young" and "beautiful" to be hosts and servers, most of the best sushi places I know have older men making sushi. And now that I think about it, I don't know that I've ever seen a female sushi chef (yes I know they say that women's hands are warmer and thus don't make good sushi chefs, but in this day and age I'm surprised I've never seen a female sushi chef-not saying they don't exist). So while I might take age out of the equation I would agree that there is an amount of racial profiling going on. I don't think it insurmountable though. I would forget the more traditional places and look for places that are doing more of the global thing with foods and influences from many different places (and yes they do exist). I think you might have better luck at those kind of places.
Thank you for everybody's input on the matter. I ended up taking a position at a Sushi establishment, but was not able to obtain a position that I was seeking. I am not doing sushi, but working in the back kitchen. My plan is to somehow wait It out and hope that someone in the front quits or that the restaurant gets so busy that they end up needing another hand eventually. I have not given up yet. I continue to work hard at the current job while continuing to seek other opportunities, in case things don't work out in my favor. Thank you so much for all the support.