Name: Casey Bonsi
Company: Origami Catering Company
Can you tell me a little bit about what your company does?
Origami Catering Company offers two services. We are a sushi wholesaler that provides grab-n-go sushi boxes to grocery stores, coffee shops and cafeterias; and secondly, we are a sushi catering company that provides sushi for catered events. In the mornings we produce fresh sushi on a daily basis. We package our products, and deliver them to retailers. In the afternoons and evenings we cater sushi parties–everything from potlucks to weddings. At catered events we set up a sushi buffet and can provide flower arrangements and dj services. This year we will be a food vendor at the Summer Solstice Reggae Festival in Selma. With the help of our main sushi chef, Markos Photinos, we are becoming more involved with festivals, concerts and outdoor markets. Keep an eye out for us next year at the farmers’ market in Ashland and Medford.
When and Where did you learn to make sushi?
I started making sushi 15 years ago at Shoji’s, a sushi bar in Eugene. A Japanese woman, Yoshi Gillespi, introduced me to the trade. Five years later I developed a menu for a friend of mine who opened Oh’s Osaka in Medford. I worked at Oh’s and the Kat Wok for a number of years, but it wasn’t until I moved to Seattle that I really honed my skills. I was the only non-Japanese sushi chef working for Seattle’s sushi legend, Shiro Kashiba. Shiro was the first person to bring sushi to Seattle in the late 60’s and soon became an international restaurant consultant. My apprenticeship with Shiro put my skill level into perspective. Although I’d been making sushi for ten years prior to working at Shiro’s, I was an amateur. I had yet to comprehend the mastery of this trade.
What’s your favorite roll?
My favorite roll is the Kimbab. It is a Korean sushi roll made with sesame oil. The oil mixed into the rice dramatically changes the flavor and the consistancy. The rice becomes less sticky so the roll must be rolled with the seaweed on the outside. Inside the roll are a number of vegetables with or without fish or meat. I like using shitakes, spinach, carrots, green onions and tamago (omlette). We’ll be adding the Kimbab to our selection this summer.
What was the inspiration behind the name Origami Catering?
I decided on the name Origami because of the similarities between the art of paper folding and the art of rolling sushi. Both mediums involve bright colors, a delicate size, an intricate craftsmanship and an attention to detail. Both disciplines create something complex out of something quite simple: a square piece of paper; fish and rice. With origami, if the paper isn’t perfectly square, it creates problems. With sushi, if the rice isn’t perfect, the sushi fails. With only a few ingredients in sushi, flaws are more easily detected and demands a higher level of perfection.
What is the most interesting Sushi roll you have ever heard of being made?
The most interesting kinds of sushi are usually not the rolls. Some of the more interesting sushi dishes I’ve seen are ones served alive or ones that are dangerous to eat. Whenever the element of death is introduced at the dinner table, yours or the fish’s, people’s interest peaks. Lobster, spot shrimp, geoduck and abalone are often served alive. In Korea, the live baby octopus which is notorious for suffocating people while climbing out of their throats is an interesting dish. Shirako, the fish sperm sack is a sushi favorite in Japan, and so is Fugu, the poisonous blowfish. However, the most interesting dish I’ve seen is one Shiro discovered in Alaska. Each year Shiro harvested herring eggs with the Yup’ik Eskimos. When the herring came to spawn, pine branches would be placed in the surf to collect the eggs. Shiro would then marinated the branches covered with fish eggs in a brine. It was a dish that Shiro believed captured the flavors of region–a flavor of the ocean and the mountain and the season.
Where can locals buy your product and find out more about you?
Our sushi is available at the Ashland Food Co-op, Shop’n Kart, and SOU. This summer our sushi will also be available at the Extreme Juice Bars in Medford and Food 4 Less. Locals can find out more about our business in the 2008 Rogue Flavor Guide and on our website at www.origamicatering.com.