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This 24 Year-Old Sushi Chef Has Shattered The Culinary Glass Ceiling

People

It's an aging concept, that of the male-only executive in the kitchen. Women, who have long been confined to pastry or serving in restaurants now find themselves dominating in the food and beverage sectors throughout the world. Whether they're rockstar bartenders or beverage directors, or conceptual sue chefs, or kitchen executives, these sectors have been some of the fastest to knock down the gender barriers that have plagued the working world for centuries.


In Michelin ratings, women still have a ways to go, with only about 8% of the starred restaurants in NYC run by female chefs, something the guide's director said they “can't do anything about" when questioned on the gender discrepancies.

Michelins aside however, it's the sushi industry that is the focal point here, which, food-critics Zagat have described as “woefully behind in terms of gender equality." At 24, Oona Tempest is one of the youngest female sushi chefs on the scene in New York, and has taken the industry's engendered history to task with her quick rise to prominence in the Edomae sushi sphere.

“I had no idea I was going to be a chef," laughs Tempest, who was an aspiring marine biologist before taking an art degree in New York. Given her proclivity for the creative, and her waitressing job at the time in Tanoshi Sushi, it became inevitable that the two would converge when one day, the head chef asked her if she would like to hold a knife. “I started as a waitress," begins Tempest. “I learned about the differences in the fish, their history. what their seasons are so I could explain to customers the technical facts. Then my master invited me one night to try holding a knife, and it just snowballed from there."

Oona Tempest

The fast-pace movement of NYC's restaurant scene lends itself to a faster training progress than the traditions practiced in sushi's home country. “In Japan an apprentice would start as a host or a dishwasher," says Tempest. “Traditionally you would start cleaning the floor, and then washing the rice for a year or two, then cleaning or gutting the fish for a year or two, and the minimum (for the training) would be ten years." For Tempest, the expedited process came by virtue of a few factors, the most important being work ethic. Under the supervision of her master, she worked almost 7 days a week, focusing only on one skill at a time. “So it looks like I got where I am really fast but really it was just because of the level of intensity I was trained at," she comments.

“And of course this is ignoring the fact that first of all, you would not be female," Tempest states. Given the patriarchal nature of Japan's culture, this mentality has seeped into sushi restaurants throughout the world. Even with asian fusions such as fan-favorite Nobu, a female chef behind the sushi counter is a rarity, if not a non-entity.

It only takes one, of course.

Tempest's quick rise through the ranks at Tanoshi gave her a resounding name for herself when she looked to make the next step in her career. Her most recent posting is at David Bouhadana's Sushi By Bou, of which, she is Sushi By Bae(and yes, we absolutely adore the name).

“Traditionally you would start cleaning the floor, and then washing the rice for a year or two, then cleaning or gutting the fish for a year or two, and the minimum (for the training) would be ten years. And of course this is ignoring the fact that first of all, you would not be female."

-Oona Tempest

You'll find Tempest's sushi counter nestled away in the hip Jue Lan Club where you will sit down at her counter and watched her transform what looks like regular fish into a culinary experience that is sure to blow you away.

Tempest's 90-minute Omakase is similar to a restaurant tasting menu, only a little more intimate. Omakase basically means “I trust you" in Japanese, whereby you give all inhibition over and allow the chef to do the choosing for you. In the last few years, Omakase and particularly Tempest's style of traditional serving, Edomae, has been available in very few restaurants in the city, a trend which appears to be turning around.

“New York City is going through quite a sushi renaissance," says Tempest. “Just this past summer alone, 10 new high-end Omakase restaurants opened up."

The renaissance has begotten a rebirth of old style sushi - very simple, clean, no extra ingredients and very traditional - Edomae, which is an old form of sushi, is what sushi trends are now reverting to. To say you're Edomae technically means you're using fish from only the Tokyo region, but now it intimates that you're using this old, simple style. All of Tempest's fish comes from the biggest fish market in the region, Tsukiji, which is easily imported into New York because of great trading lines between the two cities, but also makes for a different day, everyday. Tempest relies on her imagination for each tasting menu, given the unpredictability of the fish coming in from abroad.

Given the spotlight that is now on the culinary arts to embrace the times, we're confident Oona will soon be working with a team of female sushi chefs. But for now, we will continue to watch in awe as she keeps us drooling over her beautiful and delectable fish artistry.

3 Min Read
Health

7 Must-have Tips to Keep You Healthy and Fit for the Unpredictable COVID Future

With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.

When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.

Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan

Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.

Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.

The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.

Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits

The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.

With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.

Tip 3: Start slow and strong

If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.

Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.

Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize

In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.

When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.

Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness

From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.

Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.

Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.

A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.

Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition

In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.

If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health

While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.

For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.

While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.