Every sushi lover has that one spot they love to indulge themselves in every so often. Sure, it may not be a world-class restaurant or a questionable all-you-can-eat buffet, but it's usually a place that's a perfect harmony of both.
For perspective, my local sushi watering hole has a four-page menu of colorful sushi rolls that you can order individually, or pay up to thirty bucks for the all-you-can-eat option. The choices for rolls seemed endless thanks to the chef's creativity in building a menu and his constant desire to create something new (when in doubt, see Japan's top five choices). Sure, he'll take his sweet time and I'll probably be full by the time he's brought out the fifth batch of rolls, but the quality and care is definitely noticeable.
Now, what if that kindly old chef was replaced with a sushi-making machine?
That's kind of what this new Sushi Robot is doing:
Created by the Japanese firm Suzumo, the latest Sushi Robot can create about 4,000 pieces of sushi every hour or one complete roll of sushi every 12 seconds. All they need is the tiniest of human assistance to feed them the ingredients.
So far, the machines are marketed to high-volume supermarkets, all-you-can-eat buffets, schools, sporting venues and hospitals. Typically anywhere that needs a large amount of sushi in a short amount of time.
Still, with the massive amounts of sushi a robot is capable of producing, there still remains a need for real chefs. There's something special about eating a roll prepared and cut by a professionally-trained sushi chef than a mound of rolls cranked out by a machine.
The purpose of the machines is to create a massive amount of sushi in bulk for a cheaper price. So, when you're feeding it ingredients, you tend to use cuts of fish that probably won't cost as much as a traditional sushi spot. You'll see thinner slivers of sashimi rather than a thicker cut on top of your rolls.
I spoke to Kaiser Noriesta, a sushi chef of five years, on whether or not machines like the Sushi Bot would ever replace a traditional sushiman.
I don't think it will. I've seen those machines. I can see super cheap sushi places that'll have those machines. They have some perks like being fast and sanitary but it'll only help pop up more gimmicky restaurants or sushi restaurants that sell for super cheap.
When it comes to the art of sushi, you still need experience on how soft the rice is or the feel and temperature. You also need to know the quality of the fish you're using and the feel of the flesh etc. But yeah more power to them if they create affordable sushi that reaches out to a wider audience
As dope as a machine that pumps rolls after roll in a matter of seconds sounds, it still can't replace the love and care that a sushi chef provides. Humans with the proper training can improvise and adapt to any sushi-making situation that machines can't quite handle yet (cc: panda sushi).
If a machine were to cater to a picky customer's specific requests, it would have to shut down production, be reprogrammed for that one customer and then reset itself.
Kind of defeats the purpose of mass production.
By Peter Pham
Pete's favorite foods include pizza, tacos and pretty much any kind of breakfast. He'll usually snap a photo or two while his food cools down.