Archive for August, 2012

Anita dreams of sushi…

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

O-Bento Sushi, that is, from John Kim’s shop in Waltham, MA.

“Jules’ food is all about taste, color, texture, balance, and freshness,” explained¬†Jules Catering’s Owner-Chef Anita Baglaneas, when we explored the topic of sushi after seeing the 2011 documentary¬†Jiro Dreams of Sushi.¬†(The film delves the lifelong quest for sushi perfection by 85-year-old master-sushi chef,¬†Jiro Ono, in Tokyo.)

“That’s why we feel such an affinity with John Kim of O-Bento, and that’s why he’s Jules’¬†only sushi vendor. The sushi he delivers to our kitchen three or four times a week is as pure and fresh as it is beautiful to the eye.”

The first word subtitled in the film is ‘deliciousness,’ we recalled.

“When I dream about O-Bento Sushi,” Anita smiled, “deliciousness most definitely applies.”

Central to this O-Bento Sushi display is Maki (hand-rolled sushi) wrapped in Nori (seaweed)

 

Sushi artisan

South Korean-born-world-traveler John Kim, who founded O-Bento Sushi soon after he “fell in love with the Charles River” and moved to the Boston area in the late 1980s, barely finds time to¬†dream about sushi, simply because he allots many more hours to meticulous fish selection and sushi preparation than he does to sleep.¬†Because his product cannot be offered to customers except when it’s absolutely fresh, this purveyor of sushi must grab sleep when he can, which is usually between¬†7 p.m. and midnight.

John Kim of O-Bento Sushi sharpens his knives twice a day

Outside this narrow window, John is either accepting deliveries of fresh fish from both near- and far-flung places (Southeast Asia, Nova Scotia, Maine, to name a few)…or he’s engaged in sushi preparation and presentation…or he’s overseeing prompt deliveries to Jules Catering’s Somerville kitchen, as well as to a host of other metro-Boston clients.

When morning deliveries wind up around 10 a.m., John¬†may find time for¬†a short nap.¬†In rare spare time he enjoys hunting for antique sushi platters and boxes. “O-Bento¬†is Japanese for ‘lunchbox,'” John explained.

Sushi rollout

'O-Bento' is Japanese for 'lunchbox' (front, left)

When it comes to raw fish, what does it mean to be ‘fresh’? we wondered, as John Kim and a longtime colleague expertly prepared for a Saturday delivery.

“Absolutely no smell, no blood, bright skin, firm flesh.”

We surveyed John’s pristine shop. We inhaled deeply. We nodded in appreciation.¬†

No doubt about it, there was no fishy scent, not a trace of blood, and the bright colors of the oh-so-fresh fish astounded. As did the speedy process: No sooner was the hand-rolling of sushi complete, than the rolls were sliced, arranged, and packaged for delivery.

Sushi “rollout” happens¬†fast!¬†Still, we managed to catch much of the process in still-photos:

 

Sushi, defined

Bowl of Sushi painted by Ichiyusai Hiroshige

Sushi¬†means “raw fish,” correct?

No! ¬†The Japanese word¬†sushi¬†means “sour-tasting.”¬†

This surprised us, but made perfect sense once we learned that the common ingredient to all sushi is vinegared rice, not raw or cooked fish.

O-Bento Sushi (like all Japanese sushi) features short-grained Japanese rice flavored with vinegar, sugar, and salt.

Jules-style sushi (variations on a traditional treat)

“Whenever we want to provide our clients with top-of-the-line Japanese sushi,” Anita Baglaneas explained, “we always turn to John Kim. But sometimes–for example, last May when we celebrated Jules’ 25th anniversary–we team up with O-Bento Sushi in a somewhat different way.”

“Because we developed a menu that improvised off of the traditional maki (rolled-sushi) and prepared some variations that called for something other than Japanese rice, our Executive Chef, Albert Rosado, prepared many of the fillings. One was a Greek-style maki roll with Arborio rice, feta, and tomatoes… another was a Jewish-style roll with smoked salmon and chived cream cheese… still another was a Spanish-style maki roll filled with saffron risotto, chicken, and¬†chorizo–all rolled up in thin-sliced Spanish ham.”

An example of Jules Catering's sushi variations rolled by O-Bento Sushi

“Even when Albert prepared the sushi fillings, John and his team at O-Bento rolled them up, which was no small feat given that we offered some 1600 pieces of sushi that night!”

O-Bento and Jules

O-Bento Sushi has been providing Jules Catering with sushi for about ten years, we observed, as John Kim paused for a photo before hopping into his van and setting off on deliveries.

John Kim has been providing sushi 'lunch boxes' and other sushi products to metro-Boston customers since 1991

“That’s right,” John smiled. “I am happy when my customers are happy, and Anita has taught me so much. When I started out I knew little about the American market, and she was my mentor. Yes,¬†I value my longtime relationship with Anita and Jules.”

 

Photo Credits
Sushi Rolls from O-Bento Sushi and portraits of John Kim: Liz Muir
Bowl of Sushi by Ichiyusai Hiroshige: Wikimedia Commons

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She’s got party DNA

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

“Absolutely I love a party! I was raised in a family that loved to entertain. My mother would say, ‘Oh, let’s have a¬†hat¬†party’–and all of a sudden there would be 100 people at the house, eating and drinking and having fun in their hats.”

“Or my father, the president of a Madison Avenue ad agency, would out of the blue call my mom and say, ‘I’m bringing 20 people home in 10 minutes.’ And there would be a party.”

Partying--and planning parties--are strands in Kim Gericke's DNA

So explained Event Sales Manager Kim Gericke¬†when we stopped by Jules Catering’s Somerville office to become better acquainted with this newest member of the sales team. (Kim celebrates her first anniversary with Jules¬†today, August 1.)

“By age three I knew how to pass trays and mix a martini!” Kim laughed.

Mad man’s daughter

Another ad man's daughter

It sounds a bit like Mad Men, we observed.

“It was straight out of Mad Men! Remember ‘Winston tastes good like a cigarette should‘? That was my Dad’s account.”

Are there similarities between you as a child and Don Draper’s daughter, Sally?¬†

“Not at all,” Kim countered. “Mostly what I learned from my parents was how to work really hard. To cite just one example, I‚Äôd go on shoots with my Dad and, as the boss‚Äô daughter, I put in at least as much effort as anyone else.”

So your parents encouraged you to work hard and enjoy a party–

“That’s the way we were raised.”

A background in tv marketing and promotion 

“For much of my life I worked in television,” Kim continued, “starting off in a ‘Can I get you a cup of coffee?’ secretarial position, which also involved tape-dubbing. This was at WWOR TV in New York, and it worked out really well for me.”

“Before long there was an opening for a production assistant on the syndicated show Romper Room¬†(1953-1994),¬†where I was charged with keeping track of scripts and kids. TV production, by the way, is where I began to develop and hone my organizational skills.”

“After just six months on Romper Room¬†a position opened up in WWOR’s Promotion Department, which is where I learned to write copy, including scripts for the voiceovers that ran as the credits rolled. It was exciting because I was writing for¬†live announcers… This was live TV!” ¬†

“Another really great part of this job happened each February when WWOR would fly me down to Florida, where all the Mets promos were shot. These were high-end commercials involving professional ball players, and it was fun.”

Don’t tell us you’re a Mets fan…

“No!”

“Things took a turn for the worse when I moved to a station in Hartford that also broadcast the Mets, because when that station was sold to FOX all the creative people were let go, including me. Which is what led to my moving to Boston and gradually transitioning into a full-fledged catering career.”

From television to catering

“First, on a very part-time basis, I worked for The Catered Affair. Later I became an Events Manager there, which suited me fine because I‚Äôm well organized and bossy,” Kim laughed. “On and off I worked with them for 10 years, eventually doing their marketing and advertising.”¬†

“From there I went to Different Tastes, which is where I learned how to sell catering, and then I moved on to Wildflour Catering. Now, as you know–because it’s my first anniversary–I’ve been with Jules for one full year.”¬†

Party set-up at a Jules-catered event

 

 Kim and Jules

Event Sales Manager Kim Gericke celebrates one year with Jules

“I‚Äôve worked at some great places, but I have to say Jules’ food blows me away,” enthused Kim, unprompted. “Quality food is easy to sell.”

“And I love my job because I love to create a party. I think about it thematically, and because of¬†my marketing background I give a lot of thought to¬†who I’m trying to reach–and¬†how.”

“One way I do this is by extrapolating from client websites. For example, leading up to a WebMD party I found a Thai Lettuce Wrap recipe among the website’s healthy recipes, and this kernel of an idea grew¬†into a fabulous cocktail party. [Jules’ Owner-Chef] Anita is always wonderful to brainstorm with, and she just ran with this. She and the chefs are forever coming up with new ideas and fun themes.”

“Media people are my niche…I work with a lot of advertising agencies.¬†It’s all about marketing and what’s a good fit.”¬†

When we asked Jules’ Director of Business Development, Jenny Willig, to weigh in on Kim’s first anniversary with Jules, Jenny said,¬†‚ÄúKim, with her vibrant personality, has been a great addition to our team. ¬†Her creativity and interest in food trends has helped her pull off some really fun events.‚ÄĚ

 
Photo Credits:
Portraits of Kim: Liz Muir
Kiernan Shipka and John Hamm: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images North America
Romper Room: Wikimedia Commons
Mets Logo: New York Mets
Jules Party Set-Up: Liz Muir 
 
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