Elvin Jin was on a path to becoming a medical doctor when he decided to end his work as a physician’s assistant in pediatrics, travel to Japan, and pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a chef.
Working at the foot of the masters in the Japanese food scene, Jin spent a “humbling” eight months doing nothing more than cleaning rice.
“I wasn’t allowed to do anything else,” Jin recalls. “There were many days I had had my doubts over my career decision. Some days had to remind myself why I was doing the work, and convince myself not to quit.”
For three and a half years, he learned among the most influential Japanese food scene influencers. “I learned how to preserve, buy, cure and filet fish,” he says. “I learned with my eyes and developed discipline.”
This month, Elvin Jin is on track to take another step on his path as a chef, opening his first restaurant, Tatsumi Sushi of Austin, Texas.
In this week’s Q&A with Boxerbrand blog Recipe for Success, Elvin Jin, chef/owner of Tatsumi Sushi discusses his past and future, and why Austin was crying out for a great sushi place.
BB: How did you decide to give up medicine for cooking?
TS: This was not an easy decision. I started out as a physical therapist because I loved working with the patients. Then I found myself wanting more responsibility, so I studied and became a nurse. I still wasn’t satisfied with the scope of my work, so I decided to become a doctor. I was drawn to pediatrics because it’s so rewarding to see the smiles, joy and happiness of the patients. As I studied and worked, I used cooking to de-stress. Like running, I found cooking very therapeutic, and the kitchen became a source of serenity for me, a place where I got into my zone.
I come from a long line of restauranteurs. My parents were both in the business, and so were my aunts and uncles. Even though I loved medicine, owning a restaurant was a dream I’d had since I was a teenager. So, as hard as the decision was to leave medicine, I realized that being a chef was what I really wanted to do.
BB: How did your work in Japan prepare you for owning your own restaurant?
TS: In Japan I was able to learn everything from the ground up. After I learned to clean rice, and to buy, cure and prepare fish, I experienced a whole other level of food and ingredients. It was eye opening. I worked with beautiful ingredients I’d never imagined existed.
I studied in Japan for three and a half years before returning to the states and working for Michael Mina in San Francisco, a Michelin-starred chef. I started as a line cook and worked my way up to a sous chef working for one of his concepts.
BB: How did you make the leap from San Francisco to Austin?
TS: Being born and raised in San Francisco, I was surrounded, even spoiled, by all the great food. Our family has been fortunately to own and operate a successful restaurant there for 21 years. And, I wanted to branch out of my own bubble.
I chose Austin for my sushi concept because I love the community, but felt there was a lot more growth opportunity for great Japanese and Asian cuisine. The Asian scene is not quite there yet in Austin, but I feel it’s ripe. Austin has won back-to-back awards for being among the best places to live, and there’s a lot of tech and diversity.
I took a full year to find the location. It’s north of Austin in a suburban area where there’s a restaurant row. There’s a lot of barbecue places and Italian sports bars, ample parking, and it’s a great alternative to the city.
The neighborhood itself is beautiful and the population is young, in their 30s and 40s, and they’re all looking for a new concept.
BB: What is the vibe of Tatsumi Sushi?
TS: Our appearance is natural pallet with earth tones and wood. And we’re very traditional Japanese cuisine, which differs from the trendy fusion restaurants. We’re planning to keep it simple and high end. As a consumer, I’m the type of person who would rather own one pair of great jeans than several pairs of mediocre ones. This is how I feel about sushi and our concept. We will serve the best fish from Peru and Japan and strive to make Tatsumi Sushi one of the best restaurants in Austin. —Tatsumi Sushi, which opens its doors this March, uses Boxerbrand’s Linen Naturals in its table presentation. Thank you!