The Story of Sushi

An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice

by Trevor Corson


—Publisher's Weekly (starred review)

"Ridiculously entertaining and interesting."

—Powell's Books

"Authoritative, often amusing."

—The New York Times Book Review (Editor's Choice)

"Excellent food journalism."

—Michael Ruhlman

"An expert's command."

—The New York Times

Editors' Choice

New York Times Book Review

A Best Food Book of the Year

—Zagat Survey

Best American Food Literature Book of the Year

—Gourmand Awards

About the Book

Everything you never knew about sushi—its surprising origins, the colorful lives of its chefs, the bizarre behavior of the creatures that compose it—is revealed in this entertaining documentary account by Trevor Corson, the author of the highly acclaimed The Secret Life of Lobsters.

When a twenty-year-old woman arrives at America's first sushi-chef training academy in Los Angeles, she is unprepared for the challenges ahead: knives like swords, instructors like samurai, prejudice against female chefs, demanding Hollywood customers—and that's just the first two weeks.

In this richly reported story, Corson shadows several American sushi novices and a master Japanese chef, taking the reader behind the scenes as the students strive to master the elusive art of cooking without cooking. With the same eye for drama and humor that Corson brings to the exploits of the chefs, he delves into the biology and natural history of the creatures of the sea.

He illuminates sushi's beginnings as an Indo-Chinese meal akin to cheese, describes its reinvention in bustling 19th-century Tokyo as a cheap fast food, and tells the story of the pioneers who brought it to America. He shows this unlikely meal now exploding into the American heartland just as the long-term future of sushi may be unraveling.

The Story of Sushi is a compelling tale of human determination as well as a delectable smorgasbord of surprising food science, intrepid reporting, and provocative cultural history.

The Story of Sushi is published by HarperCollins.

"The Story of Sushi is a pleasure to read, entertaining and informative, with compelling characters and fascinating history, all told in an easy and natural voice. Excellent food journalism."

—Michael Ruhlman, author The Soul of a Chef

"Trevor Corson's reverence for all things from the sea is palpable. In The Story of Sushi he takes you on a fascinating journey into the world of sushi. The story he relates is rich in detail, thoroughly engaging, a pleasure to get lost in."

—Eric Ripert, executive chef and co-owner of Le Bernardin; author of A Return to Cooking and Le Bernardin Cookbook: Four-Star Simplicity

"I recommend a lot of books ... but I’m not sure the last time I said that any you must read a particular book. If you like sushi, or just seafood in general, however, you need to get yourself a copy of Trevor Corson’s The Story of Sushi, a tremendous read."

—Keith Law, ESPN / Meadowparty

Historical Sushi Dinners

After The Story of Sushi was published Trevor began hosting a series of guided historical sushi dinners. The dinners continued for about six years, based mainly in New York City. The dinner series received wide media coverage and educated attendees on the gastronomic and ecological benefits of traditional sustainable seafood.


To research The Story of Sushi, Trevor spent several months embedded at a sushi-chef training academy in Los Angeles. You can see snapshots that Trevor took of the people and places in the book by visiting Trevor's author page on Facebook.

"Filled with cultural history, science, gastronomical observations, Bourdain-like cooking tales and food facts, The Story of Sushi is ridiculously entertaining and interesting."

—Powell's Books

"Rarely has a Westerner written so knowledgeably, or entertainingly, about the subject. ... An expert's command."

—The New York Times

"Riveting. ... Corson beautifully intersperses the drama with lessons about the history and science of each fish. ... Foodies will find dozens of useful tips to enhance their appreciation of 'the fast food of old Tokyo.' ... The combination of culinary insights and personal drama makes for one of the more compelling food-themed books in recent years."

—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A clever narrative strategy—the reader learns the practice and history of sushi alongside the students. ... Authoritative, often amusing, chapters on sushi history, marine biology, and the physiognomy of taste. While the students hack away at mackerel, Corson serves up bite-sized explanations of the invention of soy sauce, the sex life of red algae, and the importance of umami, that mysterious fifth taste that underlies so much of Eastern cuisine. His chapter on rice, a subject that Americans take for granted, is itself worth the price of the book."

—The New York Times Book Review (Editor's Choice)

"A meticulously reported account ... chock-full of great tidbits, revelatory findings, amazing science. ... What could have been a dry sushi treatise is instead turned into a compelling read by the writer's inventive narrative approach. ... Corson proves a master at providing a non-stop banquet of tasty morsels sure to delight anyone who has taken a seat at a sushi bar."

—Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"An amicably told tale that takes a quirky, humanistic, and mostly nonlinear approach to the story of sushi. ... [The reporting] technique creates an immediate, and lasting, respect for the author's narrative purity. ... Corson also possesses a touch of the poetic, visible in beautiful sentiments."

—San Francisco Chronicle Book Review

"The action ... is fast and furious and should keep you flipping pages. If scenes of fish gutting doesn't keep you riveted, then women fighting for equality in a man's world might. Anyway, the catering jobs to Hollywood sets will definitely do so. [The Story of Sushi] is an excellent example of the narrative nonfiction style of writing."

—Santa Cruz Sentinel

"Corson leaves no detail unexplained, and true food nerds will appreciate his rigor. ... Fascinating. ... You'll still be lining up to order your favorite snack, but with renewed appreciation."


"Corson is an excellent writer. ... [The Story of Sushi] has a consistently graceful pace, shifting smoothly back and forth between human drama at the school and fascinating facts about fish. ... Like a good sushi chef, [Corson] pares them down to their essence and serves them up in all their beautiful simplicity, without excessive garnish."

—The Daily Yomiuri (Japan)

"Fun, even sumptuous, and occasionally touching. ... I was enchanted with how this tale unfolds. ... [The Story of Sushi] is a highly readable field guide to sushi, beginning to end. Corson is a fine nature writer, a thorough and compassionate researcher with a well-honed literary voice. ... This is a gem of a book for food lovers who care about their sources. It should be required reading for every chef and aspiring chef in North America."

—Edmonton Journal