You can idle in the comfort of your car for a few minutes at a drive-through for a quick fix of sameness and consistency; or you can explore the endless possibilities that creativity, passion and flair can offer a diner. Master sushi-chef Shane Sambo, who recently relocated to Johannesburg from KwaZulu Natal, subscribes to the latter philosophy. After more than a decade, honing his craft daily, his move to the big smoke was inspired by a desire to share his interpretation and artistry with Gautengers.
“I started off as a griller in a Durban restaurant about 15 years ago,” says Sambo, adding that his first encounter with sushi was the size of the paycheck. “I heard that sushi chefs earned way more than grilling steaks and chicken, and made it my business to learn more.” The rest, as they say, is history and what started off as the pursuit of a better wage ended up in a life-long love affair. “There is something about being able to create beauty on a plate; I see every serving as a work of art. You see,” he continues, “food tastes better when it looks incredible. When it is an experience that touches more than once of our senses.”
He learnt his craft while on the job at various restaurants, eventually spending two years being mentored by accomplished Japanese sushi-chefs. “It was an incredible journey, from the very first teriyaki I was taught how to make through to my apprenticeship with true masters. The passion and creativity is infectious and it inevitably rubbed off on me.” In fact, Sambo’s skill as a sushi-chef became so well known that he was approached to develop a menu and train staff for a franchise brand recently. “It was a relatively short stint, but, I am really proud of the fact that the menu I had created is still in use, and still popular.”
Sambo says that sushi is for everyone. “While there are traditionalist dishes and combinations, there is also no end to what can be developed and created.” To that end he holds the view that garnishing ingredients do not have to be raw, either. “I have experimented with deep-fried crab, for example, and it worked like an absolute charm. It was delicious.”
He has also created several imaginative sauces served as sides, going beyond the usual soya sauce, ginger slithers and wasabi. “As any form of cuisine grows and develops, innovation becomes an important ingredient too. That is why I settled on creating zingy, spicy, and delicious accompaniments that enhance every aspect of flavour. Of course, it has become my signature, too” He laughs, adding that once anyone has tasted his sushi, “they can never go back.”
Sambo is currently the resident sushi master chef at newly opened Iceland Seafood and Deli in Sunninghill Square, Rivonia.