Vancouver Island University launches new Japanese cooking skills certification

Visiting from Kyoto, Japan, Motoi Kurisu, Executive Chef at Arashiyama Kumahiko and President of Kumahiko Co. Ltd. gave a demonstration to VIU Culinary students this week to help celebrate the launch of the new certification.  Photo: Vancouver Island Univ

Visiting from Kyoto, Japan, Motoi Kurisu, Executive Chef at Arashiyama Kumahiko and President of Kumahiko Co. Ltd. gave a demonstration to VIU Culinary students this week to help celebrate the launch of the new certification.

Photo: Vancouver Island University

November 4, 2022 - 10:15am

VIU is the only Canadian institution offering the specialized certification, which will be embedded into existing Red Seal culinary programs.

Avi Sternberg still remembers the moment he entered a Japanese restaurant 20 years ago and was “awestruck by the movements” of the sushi chef working inside at the time.

“It was almost like a dance,” said the VIU Culinary Arts instructor.

Now, Sternberg is hoping to instill that same passion for Japanese cooking techniques in his students, following VIU’s new accreditation as a bronze level-certified institution in Cooking Skills for Japanese Cuisine in Foreign Countries.

VIU is now one of only 12 institutions in the world permitted to offer this training, and one of only two in North America, the other one being the Sushi Chef Institute in Los Angeles.

The accreditation process began after Sternberg saw an ad online from TOW Co. Ltd. – the management body contracted by Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to oversee the certification program. The ad was seeking cooks who had worked or were currently working with Japanese cuisine and were interested in obtaining official certification.

Having trained and worked in Japan for eight years prior to teaching at VIU, Sternberg applied for gold-level certification, and received a response from TOW asking if VIU would consider becoming an accredited institution for the delivery of the bronze certification.

The certification is being embedded into the Industry Training Authority (ITA) learning outcomes that guide students in their second year of VIU’s Culinary Arts program. Training will focus on knowledge of Japanese knife skills, the use of Japanese ingredients and cooking methods, dietary culture, hygiene management and omotenashi (Japanese hospitality and service). 

“Japanese culinary knife skills are considered the best in the world and this certification will provide students with the opportunity to gain knife skills that will aid them in their careers,” said Sternberg. “Students who are interested in working in Japanese restaurants will be able to demonstrate basic knowledge and experience with Japanese cooking. Being able to teach these techniques has been my dream and vision since before beginning my training in Japan and it means a great deal to me to see it come full circle.”

All students who complete the certification will walk away with a Japanese vegetable knife (usuba botcho), a sharpening stone and a textbook published by the Japanese Culinary Academy in Kyoto. The training will be offered at both the Nanaimo and the tiwšɛmawtxʷ (Powell River) campus, with the first delivery starting in March 2023.

For Sternberg, the appeal of Japanese cuisine and chef skills lies in the fact that there are no “wasted” movements in the kitchen.

“It took a long time of training in Japanese kitchens to understand that the entire preparation of cuisine is based off well-organized plans and anticipation. It’s a very deep cooking culture,” he said. “Junior chefs are always watching how senior chefs operate, learning to anticipate their moves and needs. During a full shift, very few words are spoken, as so much is based off of observation and anticipating what comes next. I think this largely explains why the movements of a Japanese chef are so smooth and well-organized.”

To help mark the launch of the new certification, a special delegation from Japan visited VIU from November 2 to 4 to celebrate the partnership and to demonstrate traditional Japanese cooking techniques to students. More information on the certificate can be found here.

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MEDIA CONTACT:

Eric Zimmer, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

P: 250.618.7296 | E: Eric.Zimmer@viu.ca | T: @VIUNews


Tags: Culinary Arts | tiwšɛmawtxʷ campus (Powell River) | Teaching and Learning