Edward Kim of Round Lake puts his artistic talents to use by making culinary creations called Raging Bull, Angry Shrimp, Sleepy Turtle and Crabby Ebi using only a sharp knife and a bamboo rolling mat.
"I just imagine, if I make this, what kind of texture when you bite it and what flavors go with it," Kim said of his thought process as he makes his unique sushi combinations. "I'm looking at a picture of how it looks, and that affects the name, too."
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The talented sushi chef is the owner of Sushi Kushi San3 in Vernon Hills, which he opened four years ago.
Born in Seoul, South Korea, Kim moved to the United States 14 years ago, attending Northwestern University as a pre-med student.
Due to the expense of college and the length of study for a medical degree, Kim dropped out and started looking for a job with hopes of opening up his own business someday.
He worked various jobs at several Japanese restaurants before landing at Sushi Kushi in Lake Forest, also an authentic Japanese sushi restaurant. When the restaurant opened in Highland Park, he began working there, taking on different jobs in addition to sushi chef.
Three years passed before Kim approached the owner, Toyoji Kawabata, with his drawings and plans for opening his own restaurant in Vernon Hills. With Kawabata's help, Kim took on the name and shared recipes from Sushi Kushi.
"Toyo San, which is the original owner of Lake Forest, he likes me. (He thinks) the kid is trying to do something that is very creative and it sells. He likes me a lot and I respect him," Kim said.
Kim opened up Sushi Kushi San3 in 2009, bringing in his mother, Ashley, to help.
Kim creates his dishes in the open at the sushi bar in the middle of the restaurant, rolling the rice, adding fresh fish and vegetables, before adding unique sauces.
"Sushi, for me, is that I want to eat healthy," explained Kim. "You want to eat good meat, good sushi, good fish."
Kim is always coming up with different ideas for his creations while always concerned about the business side of what sells.
When asked which is his favorite roll, he says Raging Bull without hesitation. Since sushi is usually cold, it is an uncommon dish. He uses a cast iron pan, causing the bottom of the roll to be sizzling hot while the top is cold.
"In America, you have to adjust a little bit," explained Kim on coming up with his sushi creations. "So I come up with ideas with combinations, while at the same time I want to make it pretty."