California Roll Factory


(Photo by Bobby A, from yelp)

Back in the 90’s, I became friends with some flight attendants from Japan Airlines through a mutual friend. Every time they were on a flight from Tokyo to Los Angeles; they stayed for three days and their first two days were off days. So, one time, I took them to Crazy Fish for the taste of American Style Sushi. I was unsure how they would think about American-style sushi, but they said they liked the Caterpillar and Spider Roll. One of the Japanese Chefs, seeing four young attractive Japanese female sitting in front of them, suddenly started to talk to them and hit on them. “No, no, it’s not like that. Let’s meet tomorrow and go to the beach and just hang out.” I knew what he was doing and so did everyone else. They politely declined his offer. They did say they enjoyed the sushi and it sure was their first time eating that kind of sushi.

A few years later, I found a new sushi restaurant opened up in Santa Monica Called Creative Sushi. I went there with friends of mine and saw their menu and immediately saw the similarity with Crazy Fish. I ordered Spider, Caterpillar Shrimp Tempura roll. They tasted different from Crazy Fish. Something was missing, and I could not figure out what it was. It was good, and I liked Crazy Fish better.

About the same time, when I found Creative Sushi, I found another sushi place that had a very similar menu as Crazy Fish. A friend of mine told me about this place, so I decided to take a visit. It was on Santa Monica Blvd. in West Los Angles. Like crazy fish, not exactly a place for a sushi restaurant, but then, so is Crazy Fish. It had a bright yellow sign saying “California Roll Factory.”

I walked in by myself and sat at the bar seat. When I saw the chef who greeted me and immediately, I recognized his face. However, I was unable to remember where I knew him from. A moment passed and realized he was the chef at Crazy fish. He was standing right next to the chef who started to hit on my JAL flight attendant friends. He was smiling and did not seem that surprised.

“I remember you from Crazy Fish, ” I said to him.

“Oh, yes. I remember you too. That was the night that my co-worker went “crazy.”

“Crazy indeed.”

“I am sorry about that.”

“It was not a problem. Besides, it wasn’t your fault. I think it was amusing and rather entertaining to watch. I think my friends enjoyed it as a matter of fact. They thought it was funny.”

“He acts like that sometimes. Please, have a seat at the bar.”

I took a bar seat right in front of him and ordered a beer.

“I would like to order something. It looks like you have lots of rolls…”

Right above the sushi bar, behind him was a big whiteboard, filled with names and description of the rolls. Walls are filled with menus with illustrations. At glance, I had no idea which was what. It was overwhelming.

“Yes, I quite Crazy Fish and opened this place a few months ago. Many rolls are from Crazy Fish, and I keep adding new ones with unusual names. They are catchy. As long as they catch the attention of the customers, that is good.”

“I see. I will take whatever you recommend.”

“Ok. No problem.”

His name was Kaz, just like mine. He created several different rolls for they and me all tasted good. It almost tasted as good as the one at Crazy Fish, but again, something was different.

“Every night, it’s kind of heartbreaking. I worry if customers would come and we’ll make enough money to keep it open. It’s different being an owner and running a restaurant. I have to worry about money and make sushi.”

I was just listening to him, and a thought of working at this restaurant came to mind. My working visa was soon to be expired, and I needed to extend or get a new one. Someone told me that if you were a sushi chef, it was easier to get a visa, so, I thought, maybe work here and get my visa and work somewhere else.

But then, I said to myself I did not want to be a sushi chef and work in a restaurant.

Kaz continued his talk.

“Also, I need to teach kitchen staff how to cook Japanese food. Most of them are from Mexico and they know nothing about Japanese food.”

“That must be tough.”

I was hearing the entire story about how challenging it is to run a small business and being a sushi chef. I never knew that a few years after this conversation, I would become a sushi chef and then, start my own sushi class business later on.


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