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Q & A With Josh DeChellis

After helming the kitchen at Jovia and avoiding a potentially controversial Kobe Club stint, chef Josh DeChellis seems to have happily settled back into his home at Sumile and the food that first put him in on the culinary map.  But in the fashionable world of food, it seems impossible to keep up with the Joneses these days.  So DeChellis has updated this Franco-Asian spot, transforming his serene West Village oasis into a sushi bar replete with a newly revamped menu and decidedly more traditional Japanese techniques.  Sumile Sushi’s new offerings fuse the adept techniques of sushi chef, Toshio Uguma, with Josh’s extensive travels through Japan:

A BRIEF SPIN AROUND SUMILE’S MENU:

It began with a flurry of delicate, but inspired delights: lush oysters laced with yuzu and crunchy salt; gleaming king crab legs fantastically bathed in olive oil and soy; and moist, braised gulf shrimp, brilliantly brightened by a horseradish consomme.  An elegant hanger steak came accompanied by lingonberries and a zesty, Japanese salsa verde (shiso, daikon & scallion).  Lest we not forget the sushi additions: a “chopped top” of blissfully fatty toro tangled up in scallion atop warm sushi rice; firm kanpachi with a kick of pepper sauce; and a shiso-wrapped spicy tuna handroll.  After dinner, I thought I’d sneak behind kitchen doors…

Q & A with Chef Josh DeChellis:

Status: Married

Children: No, but I have been married for two and half years to Jennifer and we are expecting our first child in June!

What did you want to be when you grew up?
Ha, that depends on which age you would have asked me that question! If you asked me at 6 years old I would have told you I wanted to be Reggie Jackson, because he was a Yankee and had his picture on candy. If you ask me now (because I don’t feel quite grown up yet), I would have to say a good father.

You’re a guy from New Jersey, so where did your obsession from Japanese food come from?
Well first of all, I am a Colombian who was adopted by Italian and Irish ( but mostly American) parents and raised in Jersey. I would say the obsession with Japanese food came with my time in San Francisco.  I loved the way I felt after eating sushi, satiated but not stuffed, clean flavors.  My first trip to Japan changed me forever.  Japanese food is so much more than the average American gets to see. It is a respectful participation in the full cycle of life with a long history and evolution of flavors.

What was your first job in the kitchen?
Maybe the best job I ever had. I worked at an Italian place in New Jersey where I washed dishes, prepped a little food and drank lots of beers. I was a freshman in high school and I worked after school. It was such an experience, two hippies owned and ran the restaurant and it was just awesome.  The food was unbelievable and she used to make these olive oil pickles, which took me 4 years to get the recipe for (now the olive oil wasabi pickles at Sumile Sushi!) and I could eat anything I wanted.

You were at Jovia for a year, then planned to open the kitchen
for Jeffrey Chodorow’s Kobe Club – why the sudden change of mind and
the decision to return full-time to Sumile?

We opened a
Sumile in Shibuya, Tokyo which was going to embed me in Sumile and the
Japanese scene again. Then we decided to finally open the sushi bar at
Sumile which has been the best thing we have ever done. I love all
types of food and cooking and I like to be involved with it, which is
why I did Jovia and why I thought that Kobe Club would be good.  Jovia
owners and I did not value the same things in the hospitality business
and Jeffrey Chodorow and I did not see the same thing for Kobe Club. I
like Jeffrey Chodorow and the whole China Grill crew and wish them the
best.

What inspired you to convert the front room of Sumile into a sushi bar?
Demand.
Some customers seemed shocked that we did not have sushi as that is
what they think of when they think of Japanese food. We thought it
would round out the experience of Sumile and it has opened up another
market to draw from now.

Where’s your favorite country to travel for food? 
Do you really have to ask…….

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
I hate this question, the “ best” is the part I hate, I would have to say my favorite meal I had was the one I ate by myself at Pierre Gagniare. I was alone and able to think about the food that was served and able to digest the way the flavors and service made me feel. It was a very strong experience.

What food trend do you most embrace?
Any trend that pays homage to farmers and growers who struggle to maintain the ingredients we cook with as mother nature intended them to be.

What culinary trend do you most detest?
None of them, there must be sin in order to appreciate virtue.

What are your top three go-to restaurants in NYC?
Blue Hill, Kuruma Zushi, Perry street

What’s your favorite restaurants in the world?
Kan in Tokyo, La Regalade and P.G. in Paris, any tapas bar in Grenada Spain.

What ingredient can you not live without?
Life without nori would be most unlovable…..

Any new projects in the works right now in the imminent future?
I have a beer coming out…I will keep you posted.

Sumile
154 West 13th Street (btwn. 6th & 7th Aves.)
(212)989-7699
website

Until we eat again,
Restaurant Girl

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