Trevor Corson hosted a series of historical sushi dinners for about six years, based mainly in New York City. The dinners received wide media coverage and educated attendees on the gastronomic and ecological benefits of traditional sustainable seafood.
Trevor Corson's book The Story of Sushi: An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice was partly born out of concern with an ecological disaster in the making.
The factory fishing and fish-farming industries, along with global seafood distributors and international Asian restaurant operations, profit from invented stereotypes about Japanese cultural purity in their worldwide marketing of sushi.
The result? Without intending to, sushi lovers contribute to the decimation of global fish stocks in a way that departs from sushi-making practices of the past. At the same time sushi lovers are also risking their own health. All this is particularly true in the case of bluefin tuna.
Trevor's work has emphasized a more unexpected history of miscegenation. Sushi is really a cross-cultural and environmentally-aware hybrid. The folkways of sushi-making, and the diversity of techniques and ingredients in traditional sushi, show us how to eat in ways that are more sustainable and more healthful.
When The Story of Sushi was published Trevor drew attention to these issues in an op-ed in The New York Times. After The Story of Sushi was named a Best Food Book of the Year by Zagat and The Best American Food Book of the Year by the Gourmand Awards, Trevor began hosting a series of guided historical sushi dinners, primarily at the Michelin-starred Jewel Bako restaurant in New York City.
Drawing on his extensive Japanese-language research into the history of Japan's cuisine, Trevor collaborated closely with traditionally-trained Japanese master chefs. Together they designed menus representing a more diverse style of sushi, truer to the roots of the cuisine as it was probably eaten a century ago.
At each meal Trevor guided his guests through the menu, weaving anecdotes from his research together with real-time tips on how to appreciate the skills of a old-fashioned sushi chef, in the process revealing secrets of sushi history, craft, appreciation, and etiquette that often came as a surprise even to seasoned sushi aficionados.
The Search for Sustainable Sushi
Although Trevor's dinner series has concluded, sushi enthusiasts can still delve into a copy The Story of Sushi and then, armed with the information from the book, pursue a more interesting and sustainable sushi experience themselves—a lifelong adventure.
Thankfully, this adventure is getting easier to pursue, as a small but growing number of sustainable sushi restaurants has begun to appear around the United States. See if one exists near your location; these establishments are trying to help preserve sushi and our oceans for the future, and they deserve our business.
Trevor Corson with Chef Mike Han formerly of Mayanoki in New York City (left) and Hajime Sato of Mashiko in Seattle (right).
P.S. The amazing Mike Han is not only a brilliant sushi chef but has now also become a celebrated artist!
Trevor is also a fan of the southern American sushi chef Marisa Baggett, whose prolific work in the Memphis area emphasizes local ingredients and vegetarian sushi options as alternatives to industrially over-harvested sushi fish. If you're interested in trying to make your own sushi at home that's more sustainable, check out Marisa's cookbooks Sushi Secrets, to which Trevor wrote the foreword, and her sequel, Vegetarian Sushi Secrets. To learn more about Marisa and other non-traditional sushi chefs, read Trevor's article "American Sushi" in The Atlantic.
Southern sushi chef Marisa Baggett (left), and (right) with Trevor and apprentice sushi chef Kevin Sullivan in Memphis.
Describing one of Trevor's historical sushi dinners in New York City, journalist and sustainable seafood expert Paul Greenberg wrote in The New York Times Magazine:
Trevor Corson is an East Asia scholar turned popular nonfiction writer and author of the 2007 book The Story of Sushi, and for select groups he will act as a "sushi concierge," hosting dinners often at the Jewel Bako Japanese restaurant in Manhattan’s East Village, one of which I attended this past winter. A Corson-guided meal aims to reveal the historical truth of tuna and to represent the very different fish that were the staples of sushi in earlier times. Plate by plate I watched as Corson walked a group of Manhattan professionals through a traditional Edo-period meal.
Trevor's historical sushi dinners have also been featured on Japanese national television and in The New York Times Dining & Wine section, The Washington Post, Food & Wine, Time Out New York, Tasting Table, Washington City Paper, United Airlines Hemispheres magazine, Plate Magazine, and other publications.
Historical Sushi Dinners in New York City with Trevor Corson
Japan National Broadcasting
“I have to admit that even Japanese diners could learn a lot from Trevor Corson’s sushi dinners. Mr. Corson is restoring awareness of a disappearing tradition at the heart of Japanese culture.”
“As we cautiously eyed at each other in the entrance to the sushi restaurant we wondered, ‘Are you here to eat sushi with Trevor Corson, too?’ As we introduced ourselves in the private tatami room, we learned that we ranged from those who felt helpless when ordering sushi to serious aficionados. Two hours later we had eaten our way through a thoughtfully chosen progression of succulent morsels, we had practiced good sushi etiquette, and had learned a tremendous amount. The laughter was completely unexpected—Trevor has a way of telling stories and encouraging others that led to a hilarious and memorable evening. When we left we felt like good friends who were now prepared to face a sushi menu with confidence. But it wouldn’t be the same without Trevor.”
Co-leader, Slow Food Boston
“Having been an avid lover of Japanese cuisine for at least the last 25 years, I supposed that, perhaps if I wasn't an expert, I was certainly a gifted and enthusiastic amateur when it came to knowing my way around the sushi bar. And how completely wrong I was. Within a matter of minutes, I realized that I knew next to nothing about the background, the origins of the myriad traditions behind Japanese cuisine. I was fascinated to begin to understand the reason behind combining certain ingredients, and the methodology of preparing them. Trevor Corson guided us through an extravaganza of taste experiences. It was a truly great, and humbling evening.”
Estreich & Company
“I was skeptical. What could this guy teach me that I didn’t already know from decades of eating in sushi bars? But Trevor Corson passed the test! I knew a lot about sushi, but now I understand the whys. And I’d never had sushi that good.”
Bronx, New York
“Trevor Corson was a charming guide through a fabulous dinner, ensuring that we got the most extraordinary and unusual ingredients from the chef and providing entertaining commentary along the way. I was already an experienced sushi eater, but Trevor’s expertise taught me a great deal about the cuisine that I hadn’t known, adding immensely to the meal and to all the sushi I’ve eaten since.”
President, Sabin Metal Corporation
"Although we’ve eaten some great sushi in Tokyo and California, and even visited the Tsukiji Fish Market, our evening with Trevor was an excellent treat. He’s a great host, and learning by eating is a great way to learn! Our sushi meals will be much more fun the next time we're in Japan."
—Derek Clegg and Leslie Wallace
“I arranged for a dinner with Trevor Corson as a present for my husband and several close friends to celebrate our wedding anniversary. The next day Trevor’s ears must have been burning, because my husband raved about it to everyone, and I felt like a genius in the gift-giving department.”
The Documentary Group
“I took a group of my friends to a sushi dinner with Trevor Corson and the meal was simply the best food I’ve ever eaten—so lovely and complex and delicious—and the evening was enjoyable and educational. I now feel very confident about eating at a sushi bar.”
“Trevor Corson’s mastery of sushi is extraordinary. He is an engaging, lively, and funny storyteller who brings the history and flavors of sushi to life. Trevor’s years of research and writing about sushi make him the perfect ambassador into the secretive Japanese arts of cuisine and culture. Our guests loved him; we can’t wait to do it again.”
King & Spaulding, LLP
“Trevor Corson is both highly entertaining and knowledgeable about sushi. His obvious passion for sushi and the Japanese cooking culture is rivaled only by his desire to have everyone walk away excited about experimenting with a new type of sushi or braving a new fish dish. Trevor has a great delivery, perfect timing, and makes it simple.”
—Emily Della Maggiora
Board of Directors, Step Up Women’s Network
“There are a lot of fish in the sea, but Trevor Corson is my favorite fillet. He was so savvy and full of serious oceanic wit that I ravenously ate everything he put before me, and the sophistication he brought to the dining experience lingers wonderfully on the palette. I would recommend, without reservation, the one and only sushi concierge—it changed my life about what I put in my mouth. The only problem is that you might want to bring a notebook. The restaurant doesn’t like it when you take notes on a napkin.”
—Anne Sloan Rankin Keck
Contributor, City Secrets Guidebook, New York City
“Spending the evening devouring some of the most interesting and delicious food I’ve eaten, I must say having Trevor as my sushi concierge was the best birthday present I received this year. Trevor’s knowledge and unpretentious personality make him a natural. A truly wonderful experience that I’ll carry with me for many years to come.”
The Washington Times
“I had an amazing culinary experience with Trevor Corson. I felt I was transported to Tokyo. How am I going to go back to eating normal sushi?”
—Henry L. Thaggert III
Northrop Grumman Corporation
“Trevor Corson’s sushi dinner for my colleagues and me was truly memorable, and made me realize that to find real balance in life, I really need to have a good wife, friend, priest—and sushi chef!"
RBC Dominion Securities