Food & Wine

A Cooking Course Like No Other

By Annie Shaw

“Sushi is all about rice. Fish is just garnish.” Chef Jackson Yu is serious for once. If the rice is no good, don’t waste your time. But we didn’t come to the Global Cuisine Series edomae-style sushi lesson at the Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay to watch someone cooking rice. We came to see Chef Yu of Michelin-starred Omakase surgically divide 40 pounds of a 630-pound Spanish bluefin tuna with a graceful Damascus steel knife made by samurai swordsmiths Kikuichi, skimming off perfect slices of glistening fish ready to make into sushi.

Chef Jackson Yu explains the different cuts of the bluefin tuna before a hands-on demo of how to cut it up by Matthew Petty.

Enthusiastic about food to his core, Yu was born in Beijing, moved to SF 20 years ago, and learned the art of sushi in Tokyo. He started opening restaurants shortly after and earned a Michelin star. Since then reservations are a must at his comfortable but meticulously authentic Design District restaurant. He’s the perfect fit for the intimate Global Cuisine Series — a huge geek for his craft, and possessed of a genuine enjoyment for sharing it with others. And everyone in the intimate 16-person class is eager to see him in action.

Such is Yu’s conviviality that by the time the class has enjoyed taking turns slicing the skin off some wild caught yellowtail from Japan, creating impossibly clever cucumber trees, and turning a $140-a-pound wasabi root into a fresh wasabi garnish, we are almost out of time. Not to worry — a magnum of Dom Pérignon shows up, and with renewed fervor, we set about making (in my case) some seriously unattractive sushi. Yu smiles and corrects me as I try to eat the evidence, while a sous chef conducts a side class in vegetarian sushi for my husband.

Yes, you can visit the restaurants of all the chefs in the series, but how often are you going to sit next to one at lunch and get the inside scoop on their favorite fish (sardines and mackerel, FYI), much less be on the receiving end of gentle teasing about your disastrous knife skills?

Joel Costa, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing, filled us in on the genesis of the series. “Our guests are well-traveled and we wanted to celebrate cuisines from around the world as present-ed by our chefs in California and select chefs from other areas,” he says.

Remaining classes this year will be difficult to choose from. Chefs Dominique Crenn of two-Michelin-starred Atelier Crenn and Petit Crenn, pastry chef Celine Plano of acclaimed Pascaline Fine Catering and Gonzalo Guzman of Nopalito each have a weekend.

Next year, a full roster of chefs will be back to continue the exclusive monthly series, available only to Ritz-Carlton Rewards, SPG Rewards and Marriott Rewards members who bid on the packages. If you don’t have points, you can still enjoy the tasting menu with the chef at the Ritz-Carlton’s restaurant Navio all weekend.

About the Series

What you get: A coastal-view room, the hands-on class, a luncheon with the chef, and a $100 resort credit to spend on spa services. Custom wine pairings from the resort’s sommelier complete the experience.

Rtiz-Carlton Half Moon Bay

Other activities and services: Sumptuous spa treatments, golf, hiking, surfing, biking and horse-back riding. Main Street Half Moon Bay for shopping, art and eats. Wine tasting, organic fruit stands, glass blowing, distilleries and breweries. Listening to the bagpiper playing mournfully on the bluffs at sunset.

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