Japan to honour Vancouver chef credited with inventing California roll
A Vancouver-based chef is credited with developing the California roll. (IngridHS / Istock.com)
The Japanese-Canadian sushi chef who is said to have invented the California roll will be honored Thursday by the Japanese government for his role in promoting Japanese cuisine.
It sounds like a paradox given that the California roll -- the inside-out maki filled with avocado, imitation crab meat and cucumber -- is not a Japanese culinary tradition, but a relatively recent creation that became popularized in Vancouver, circa 1970s.
But there's no denying the worldwide popularity of the ubiquitous starter sushi, which can be found alongisde tuna sandwiches and salads in supermarket and convenience store shelves.
The chef who popularized the inside-out roll? Chef Hidekazu Tojo, of Tojo's Restaurant in Vancouver.
It was the 1970s. Tojo had moved to Canada from Japan and realized Canadian consumers weren't ready for raw fish or seaweed.
To initiate squeamish diners, Tojo hid the seaweed in an inside-out roll, replaced raw fish with imitation crab meat, and added slices of avocado, and the California roll was born.
Why the name ‘California roll?' Because the invention proved particularly popular among diners from Los Angeles, he told The Globe and Mail in 2012.
In recognition of his influence, Japan's ministry of agriculture, forestry and fisheries will name Tojo a goodwill ambassador for Japanese cuisine, one of 13 overseas ambassadors, reports the Canadian Press.
Aside from the California roll, Tojo is also known for his omakase menu, the Japanese version of a tasting menu where diners relinquish control to the chef.
Meanwhile, earlier this year the Japanese government announced plans to launch a sushi certification program in a bid to school foreign sushi chefs on how to handle, slice and serve sushi in accordance with Japanese customs.
Diners will be able to recognize certified chefs by gold, silver and bronze distinctions, which indicate the length of their training.