Stephanie DiStefano presents an interview of Chef Jeff Roberto of Sushi on a Roll San Diego, one of eleven top San Diego chefs competing for Chefy at this year’s Bootleggers’ Ball on June 30.
Q: If you were deserted on a remote island and only had 2 spices with you- what would they be and why?
A: Sriacha is good. Everyone likes sriracha. I’m not really big with spices, but maybe something like jalapeno. Spice is everything, though. Here in San Diego, with the Mexican population, everything has to be a little spicy.
Q: Could you recall the moment(s) that led up to you becoming a Chef?
A: Yeah there was one moment that really got me in to doing what I do. There was a little girl that came in with her father. She was 6 years old, and she asked if I would do my job for free. When I said yes, she said, “then you love what you do.”
Q: Recall back to your early culinary career- what was the hardest dish you had to keep making over and over again until you perfected it?
A: It’s not really one dish, but just presentation. Also, filleting and butchering of fish is very unique. Not everyone can do it. The Japanese culture is very different involving a lot of perfection. It has to be done right. You need to have that discipline. The food has to be beautiful, like a picture. When people see food that looks nice, it also tastes better.
Q: What is your message to other Chefs that will be present for our MOW Gala in June?
A: I think just to have fun. You can’t be too serious. If you love what you do, it will just turn out that way. Experience as a chef at a sushi restaurant is different because it’s not in the back kitchen. It’s more of a show for the people watching you make it. If you can have fun and put out great food, you can have the best of both worlds.
Q: Have you ever wanted to do some else with your life professionally? If so, what?
A: Yes, actually my major in college was aviation. But I started this company, and haven’t flown in 19 years. My last flight was to Palm Springs. We just flew there for lunch in ’93.
Q: What is your nickname from childhood? How did you get that nickname?
A: I didn’t really have a nickname. But my mother, who named me, couldn’t even pronounce my name correctly. So my friends would kid with me about that.
Q: Do you have any tips for those who aspire to be a successful chef like yourself?
A: I think you have to enjoy what you do, especially when you are on your feet all day. You just have to try to be the best you can, and have fun.
Q: If you could vacation anywhere in the world- where would that be?
A: The Bahamas at the Atlantis hotel. It’s relaxing. You don’t have to leave to anywhere.
Q: If you could meet anyone -deceased or not- who would it be and why?
A: David Blaine, the illusionist. I relate to him because I want to go over the top. We’ve done 43,000 pieces for one single event. We want to take it to a different level and bring it to charity. We want to do 100,000 pieces in 24 hours. If David Blaine can live in a water tank for six days, I would want to do something to that effect related to sushi, like breaking a world record.
Q: If you could get rid of one form of modern technology- what would it be and why?
A: I would keep them all! I really don’t know. I’m a techie, so it’s difficult to think of a modern form of technology that I would get rid of.
Q: What musician are you listening to right now?
A: It’s actually Pandora. I’m listening to Michael Jackson at the moment.
Q: Name something about the 1920’s that you love.
A: Everyone is fast paced. Also the way people dressed up back then. Here in San Diego, it’s always just a t-shirt, flip-flops, and shorts. The culture of the 1920’s is so different. That’s what I like most about it.
Q: What’s the most favorite thing you’ve ever eaten?
A: I like anything decadent, like sweet bread. Extraordinary Desserts is amazing. It’s always packed with people. One dish is $10, but it’s the best $10 you can spend.