The Venue's Owner Takes Step Toward Master Sushi Chef

Certification means Engin Onural can teach sushi classes



Engin Onural (right), owner of The Venue Sushi Bar & Sake Lounge, displays his certification from All Japan Sushi Association for sushi proficiency. Congratulating him are his sensei, Andy Matsuda, (left) and AJSA director Masayoto Kazato.

Courtesy of The Venue

 

Keep your eyes on Engin Onural – he’s definitely a rising star in the Coachella Valley’s culinary scene.

The 33-year-old owner of The Venue Sushi Bar & Sake Lounge on El Paseo has accomplished the first of three steps in his ascent to becoming a Master Sushi Chef.

Onural earned a sushi proficiency certification from All Japan Sushi Association, recognized by the Japanese government, an honor for any sushi chef, but especially for a non-Asian. Onural trained under his sensei (mentor) Andy Matsuda, and was certified under rigorous testing by AJSI director Masayoto Kazato from Japan.

The certification means that Onural can now teach sushi and already gave his first sushi class – The Art of Sushi Making 101 -- at his dramatic yet intimate 50-seat restaurant.

“This is a big honor,” says Onural. “It tells the world about what you are doing. It certifies that I know how to make all the traditional sushi. I am the only certified sushi chef in the Coachella Valley.”

But Onural has never rested on tradition. His inspiration comes from a multi-cultural background and highly accomplished family that play a significant part in raising the bar for himself and his restaurant.

“The first year we won Best of the Best sushi restaurant from Palm Springs Life, which raised the bar for me,” says Onural. “The second year, we won again, so that raised the bar even more. People now expect the best from me and my restaurant. The level keeps going up.”

American born of Turkish parents, Onural returned with them to Turkey where he grew up, but continued to visit the United States often, including summer vacations on the west coast. “I consider myself 100 percent American and 100 percent Turk,” he said.

Both parents are highly educated – a university professor and a dean – and always have high expectations of their son. When only 10 years old, Engin told them he wanted to pursue the culinary and hospitality industry.
He remembers, “My parents looked me straight in the eyes and asked ‘Are you sure this is what you want to do?’ I said, ‘Yes,’ then my father said, ‘Whatever you choose to do, be the best you can be.’”

This certification verifies Onural’s accomplishments thus far. But he hopes to achieve the level of Master Sushi Chef before he is 35, which he likens to “getting my PhD in restaurants.”

He says the first 10 years in the industry were his “life school;” the last three years when he opened up his own restaurant he considers his Master’s degree.

At 22, Onural left his home, friends and family to arrive in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo to apprentice as a sushi chef at Sushi Skill Institute. He later came to the Coachella Valley at the Marriott Desert Springs where he honed not only his creative sushi making skills, but people and business skills as well. Three years ago he opened The Venue on El Paseo.

But how was this Turkish-American inspired by sushi?

Sushi with its precision cuts of raw fish wrapped with rice, seaweed, stalks of root vegetables, smeared with wasabi and dipped in soy seems a well-focused starting point. Onural leaps beyond, melding Mediterranean with Japanese cultures. One specialty he calls The Mediterranean -- spicy albacore, tempura asparagus and avocado topped with Mediterranean salsa, feta cheese and micro greens.

Onural says he is experimenting with “molecular cuisine”, creating caviar out of soy, for example, or his jellied “tear drop” mojito that explodes in the mouth. He plans to open another restaurant in Palm Springs in the coming year – “a new baby born, and double the headaches,” he said.

But Onural considers himself fortunate to do “what I love, I am very grateful.  I cannot wait to open the door of my restaurant every day, just as I am glad to get out the door at the end of the evening. The day I lose my passion, that is the day I will close the restaurant.”

The Venue Sushi Bar & Sake Lounge, 73111 El Paseo, Palm Desert, (760) 346-1500. Hours:  Daily, 5-9:30 p.m.

Like what you're reading? Then "Like" us on Facebook and "follow" us on Twitter.

Add your comment:
Desert Guide

Related Articles

10 Things To Do in Palm Springs This Weekend

Palm Springs Life helps plan out your weekend in Palm Springs and the desert resort cities with concerts, events, restaurants, nightlife, clubs and the world of entertainment only found in the desert.

Wesley Eure Will Co-Emcee at Desert AIDS Project Benefit

Chelsea Lane Bodywear presents Under & Out 3, a fashion show and poolside party on Oct. 5 as part of a benefit for the Desert AIDS Project.

Explore Palm Springs: 139 Club

Opened in the early 1930s, the 139 Club was housed in what was a private residence in Cathedral City, and the name was derived from its numerical address.

Villa Royale Inn Reflects Palm Springs History, Ambiance

What began as film star and Olympic figure skater Sonja Henie’s estate in the 1940s has been preserved and developed into a hidden gem as Villa Royale Inn.

Desert Staycations

The Palm Springs area is filled with resorts offering packages in the summer months to help people unwind and have fun.

Promotions + Contests

90 Days of Summer Romantic Palm Springs Getaway 2014

90 Days of Summer Romantic Palm Springs Getaway 2014

Experience the beauty, romance and excitement of the Palm Springs area when you enter to be the lucky winner of this romantic couple’s getaway
90 DAYS OF SUMMER Instagram Contest 2014

90 DAYS OF SUMMER Instagram Contest 2014

Win a fabulous Palm Springs weekend!

Win a fabulous Palm Springs weekend!

Each month, a first place winner will be selected to win a fabulous Palm Springs weekend!And, each month, three additional runners up will be selected to win a wonderful Palm Springs area Dining certificate!
2013/14 Best of the Best

2013/14 Best of the Best

Palm Springs Life’s annual Best of the Best. Readers tell us who their choice is for the “Best of the Best” of the Coachella Valley in over 40 categories.
Cartoon Caption Contest

Cartoon Caption Contest

Each month, we provide a vintage 1950’s cartoon illustrated by Alice Rovinsky. You are invited to submit a caption or vote for your favorite caption.
Enter to Win A Celebrate Dance Experience!

Enter to Win A Celebrate Dance Experience!

Enter just once for a chance to win tickets to one of the second annual Palm Desert International Dance Festival performances.