Good People, Cool Things
Good People, Cool Things

Episode 33 · 2 years ago

33: How to Start an Online Course with Fire-Spinning Sushi Chef Bryan Sekine

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Fire-spinning sushi chef Bryan Sekine shares how he got into both industries, why sustainability is such a critical component of his brand, and how you too can start an online course to teach others.

Welcome the good people cool things, the podcast featuring conversations with entrepreneurs, writers, musicians and other creatives. I'm your host, Joey held, and today's guest is Brian Sacchine, who may be the only fire spinning Sushi chef in the entire world. I finally got that right. You're going to hear me mess it up many times in the episode. Fire Spinning Sushi Chef Brian Sacchini, and he is chatting all about fire spinning Sushi and a whole lot more, including running a business, creating courses that had been in person and shifting them on to online courses, and some of the important sustainability about Sushi and food preparation that we're probably not given enough thought to and we certainly should be. If you'd like to support good people cool things, you can do so in a couple of different ways. Holler at the shop good people cool thingscom shop by yourself, some Nice merch a nice coffee mug. Coffee Mug getting rave reviews, by the way. The everything will be okay. So mug it is delicious. Well, the Mug itself is not delicious, but whatever you put in it will be delicious and who knows, maybe if you have a taste for glass, you might enjoy it as well. You can also reach out to the show on facebook or twitter at GPCT podcast. In the meantime, I hope you have brought your appetite, because we are talking about Sushi now. To start, it's the old cliche elevator pitch, but this is a new thing we're trying where, in addition to your elevator pitch about yourself, I'd like you to describe the elevator that we are on. While you are giving this pitch, I'll always like to joke that it starts off with something funny and, like I usually tell people I do a lot of weird things for money, and that either gets a really strange look or it's started. They start asking a lot of questions about it, and so either way, I usually lead into saying I'm a fire spinning Sushi show, and...

...that also kind of gets people's attention, and I tell them that I started learning how to make Sushi when I was younger and decided to turn that into a career outside of the restaurant, and then later on I discovered fire spinning as a hobby and decided to integrate that into a side business as well. And so, because both industries thought it was particularly interesting that I did the other, I decided to combine the two. And while I do spend about twenty five percent of my time each week focusing on Sushi stuff, I still do about ten percent in performing or fire spinning, and then the rest the amount of time I am a full time Dad and partner and web developer. And all the while going through this elevator pitch, I envision that we are standing in elevator with one of those cool curved glass windows that lets you see out into the lobby and that we're going up about fifty stories. So the longer we're in the elevator, the higher up we go, a small lobby gets and the great of you becomes so I'd love to dive a little more into all of your background there, because you did kind of touch on it a little bit. But like take us back to the first time. Do you remember the first time you tried Sushi? Oh Man, honestly, not very well. I think I was pretty young. I am half Japanese, so I've been eating Japanese food for a long time and so I think my first time eating Sushi. I think my I was probably about ten or so and I think my initial pressure was that I didn't understand why it tasted like vinegar, but I liked it, and so I continue to try like different types of Sushi and as I continue to venture out, the taste of vinegar became much more subtle. Nice. Nice. Yeah, I as I was asking that, I was like, I don't know if I could tell you...

...when I first tried Sushier, really any food I'd I just know what I like and maybe, maybe sometime I can get there. So did you have a moment then where you were like, okay, you've tried it, you like it. Now, presumably you still like you do still enjoy it and you're not just stating people about suit. was there a moment where you're like, Oh, I can take this from something that I like and you know, have an interest in eating it and, you know, teaching others? Did you have that Aha moment, or was it just kind of like gradually over time you had enough experiences where it was like wait a minute, I should do something here. Yeah, I think what I initially got a job as a Sushi chef. I wasn't like a raving fan of Sushi, like I'd had it a few times before, but I wouldn't say that, you know, if someone asked me, like what do you want to go dinner, like, Oh, let's still get Sushi, like I'm really crave in it. But after I started training to become a Sushi chef, there were several points when I would see my mentors sort of creating a new recipe or creating a new sauce or a new combination ingredients, and they would let all of us employees sample it, and going through that experience and then getting to do that myself sort of gave me the spark to pursue it more than just a day job, because when I first started I was just looking for a part time job while in college. And when I started going through all of my training, I really started to fall in love with the process and fall in love with learning more, and the more I learned, the more I realized I didn't know, and each individual facet of Sushi as a cuisine became more and more interesting. So the the fore I got, the more in love I fell with the quisine as a whole and that in the art and the history and the culture behind it and I think after about my first year...

I decided that this was something more than just a day job and that it was something that I really could see myself doing for the rest of my life. That's fantastic and yeah, I feel like a lot of businesses kind of start like that, almost of like you don't really know that you're into it until you're getting into it and you're like, wait a minute, this is pretty great. Oh really, that's what that's what I've encountered. I feel like with a lot of folks is like, I mean, I guess like thinking back to when you were a kid, I don't know, did people ever tell you like hey, I envisioned this for you were like I could see you running your own business down the line, or was that never really something that crossed her mind when you were younger? You know, I have had some people tell me that they thought I would go on to be some kind of performer, which I guess in some ways they were right, but there was at one points in high school we were doing a fundraiser for when a local club and we had to set up a booth and sell something to the students that came in and it had to be like some sort of culturally relevant item, and at the time I lived in the middle of Oklahoma and so there was no Sushi restaurants in the town grew up in. But I wanted to sell Sushi and so I made hot dog Sushi, which sounds kind of terrible, but people are actually really into it. I'm going to need some more detail here on the hot dogs. She so basically we had the vinegod rights and the seaweed and on the inside it was either a cooked hot dog or it was a piece of ham and a piece of cheese and we rolled it up and then served it with ketchup or mustard. I'm on board with that, I think. I mean. I also grew up in Chicago, so hot dogs, I mean putting ketchup on it. Most most chicagoans...

...will slap that dog right out of your hand and probably the role as well. I don't know, maybe they'd be a little more little more welcoming to that. I personally am fine with all condiments on on hot dogs. So maybe I've I have my Chicago status revoked just from admitting them, but I think that sounds delightful. But I could also see why people are scared to try initially, but I imagine you've gotten good feedback from that. Yeah, yeah, but I think at that time in high school I said, you know, I think you could be like a businessperson or entrepreneur. Nice, Nice. And so how you when we were initially talking, you said you think you're the world's only fire spinning Sushi Sushi's chef. It's hard to it's hard to say all that once far spent to seek Sushi's chef. I'll get it one of these times. And how did how did that element come into it? And what it always something we're like, yeah, let's let's make this part of it. Or was that another kind of piece that you'd added on later? Oh, that was something I added on way later. So when I was, I think, a few years out of college and at this point I had started my Sushi business and was teaching classes, one of the guys that I worked with in the restaurant was a part time circus performer and I had so many questions about, you know, that that whole industry in general, because until then I had sort of, I don't know, been a little oblivious to the fact that circuses were still around. I thought that was like an old time thing and that, you know, we didn't we didn't need circuit performers anymore, something ridiculous like that. And so he told me about his experience learning how to juggle and running a UN a cycle and spinning fire, and so I said that's sounds super fastinating. How how did you learn how to spend fire? They said, you know, we have a local meet up every Monday night at a park here in town. Why don't you come out and I can kind of show you, you know, how we learn how to spend fire. I said yeah, that'd be...

...great. So I went out there and had my mind blown and six months later, after going back every week, I decided to sort of learn more about it myself and practice spinning fire in different ways. And one day that same friend came up and said, Hey, I've got an extra ticket to this fire festival in Austin, Texas. Do you want to come with me to the festival? And I was like Whoa, like what a what is a fire festival? You know not sounds a little dangerous, and he told me it's basically a festival where people show up and they camp all weekend and throughout the day they have one hour workshops where they teach you how to spin fire in various ways, either through juggling or like twirling a Hula Hoop or spinning a staff, and that there were dozens of different ways to do it. So I said yeah, I'd be interested in going, and initially I thought I was just going to take my camera down there and camp for a weekend and take photographs of people doing crazy circus stuff. But while I was there I actually really became intrigued with the concept of spinning fire and then up buying my very first fire staff and learning how to spin fire that weekend and then came back and for me it turned into a practice of what I like to call it moving meditation. So when I get home from the restaurant, if I felt stressed out or felt anxious, anything like that, I would just pick up my staff and spin it around and it was a great way to get out of my head and back into my body and to this day it's still a practice that I do to kind of take the stress off. That is wonderful. I A couple initial thoughts with when you said Fire Festival, I got real scared for a second about the I guess infamous festival? I yeah, Jah rule and other folk fame of just which would have been...

...a great story in and of itself. I think too, if it was like, Hey, I went to this festival, it was terrible, but I picked up fire spending while I was there. Of Awesome, very good. Secondly, a someone who's lived in Austin, Texas for over eight years now, I am ashamed to admit I've never even heard of such a festival here. So is this an annual Austin thing or do they travel around every year? Oh yeah, it's an annual Austin thing. Oh my goodness, I've been. Where have I been? Yeah, if you're interested in checking it out, I know a lot of friends in Austin that still do fire performing and fire spending and the event is called flow storm come and so if you google that, I'm gotten it down. Yeah, fantastic. So do you combine the fire spinning with the the Sushi chef aspect of it, or is that just a terrible eye too? As of today, I have yet to figure out how to spin fire and will Sushi at the same time, because one is very fast paced and involves a lot of movement and the other one is kind of slow and calm and methodical, so I honestly haven't put a lot of effort into it. But the reason why I introduced myself as a fire spinning Sushi chef is because in certain crowds, you know, I tell people I'm a Sushi chef, like, for example, if I go to one of these fire festivals, which actually happened all over the country, you'd be surprised how many of them are out there, because I thought it was just like an underground thing, but it's definitely like a growing industry for sure. So I go to these festivals and people would say what do you do for living, and I'd say I'm a Sushi chef and they're like wow, that's so crazy, that's that's insane. And then I'd go back to the restaurant and say what to do this weekend? I said, well, I went to a festival and met a bunch of fire spinners and they're like wow, that's so crazy, and I was like okay, well, maybe I should just combine those two. And people ask you like what are you for living? I Say I'm the fire spinning Sushi Chef, like wow,...

...that's extra crazy. But it kind of came about because on social media I started just with Sushi content. You know, I didn't really want to have like a personal instagram account, so I just set up a business instagram account for the Sushi stuff. And then I realize that if I wanted to promote the fire performing part, I would have to be on social media for that as well, and I thought, you know, I don't know that I have the motivation to keep up with multiple accounts for each platform, one for each the different things that I do. So I'm just going to combine them all into one. And so that's kind of where the whole fire spinning Sushi chef thing really became more concrete in my mind. Is that, you know, I'm just going to have one soul speed platform and kind of share everything I do on it. Yeah, I think that's the way to go. Social media is just exhausting, and this is someone who's on it, like I'm on it a lot, and yes, it is just to try and and I think that is something that a lot of butting entreneur purners can get caught up in. Is Like I got to get gotta get on Facebook, got to get on twitter, got to get on Instagram, got to do painterest Youtube, Tick Tock now, although who knows how long it'll be be here in the states. But like, no, you don't have to do all that you like. You can pick one platform or you have, in your case, one account that covers everything there. But I do think that's a good point that you brought up of having it as a business account, because even if you're like not, if you don't envision yourself as a business owner right now, like, the insights that you get from it are so much further than your personal account will give you that you can start shaping the types of stuff you're offering, the type of content you're sharing, and it's like it's essentially free product testing and like focus groups by having this out on the Internet. So I think that's a very good distinction that you it sounds like you made pretty early on to make that the business account instead of a personal one. Thanks. Yeah, I I definitely thought that the insights were...

...the more valuable, you know, piece of it. So I didn't really see the point having a personal and a business so I just started off with a business one. Excellent skip in the steps of sharing to two years worth of like plates. Of all, I guess for for your case, like seeing Sushi would be great. So it's not. It's not totally out of the line of how some people use instagram. Anyway. I still remember when I first got on Instagram, I was just like man, I do not understand this, like why, yeah, why would I care about my friends? Like sprite can that he just pissed. But now that's right, so it's all good. So it's all good. So one of the things I like to ask concraprinters, it's what something that's surprised you about running a business? I think one of the most surprising things is how difficult it is to like sell your services or your products to people. Initially I thought it would be something that would be kind of easy to do, because I find myself talking about whatever it is I'm passionate about pretty openly and freely. But for some reason, when I started thinking about it from the business perspective, everything kind of started to the sound like a sales pitch to me and I hated that I did. I don't want to come across as being sales e or or trying to convince someone to do something. So that was a big initial struggle. And the second thing I'd say would be a fear of being in front of a camera, because if I'm in front of people, like on stage or in the Sushi restaurant, I don't have any issues at all. But getting behind the camera and recording a video, you know, to me that was so much more permanent. Like if you're alive and you make a mistake, you fumble, you can recover. People remember that part. I'll...

...just remember the good parts. But if it's a video, man, people can hit rewind, they get played over and over again, they could harass you on youtube for it, and so I thought that was a surprisingly difficult part about being in business to because in today's modern age you can't really go about business very much without having video. Now it seems like social media wants a video. Websites one video. Everyone needs to have a youtube channel, you know, and like, especially with things like tick tock like, you have to be in front of a camera. Yeah, and I think that's a very common fear there is, is that permanence of video and you might, you know, you might have a great take where you nail everything and then you you're looking at it it's like, Oh, I had, you know, a stain on my shirt or so, or you know, it's like something you didn't even consider. Yeah, or there's like something going on in the background that you didn't notice and it's just like Ah, it is a lot of additional consideration to think of. But then you're right, like that's just how people are digesting stuff now, is they want to see a quick video instead of having to read through lines of text or like they're putting on a podcast to get their information, because it is something you can do a little more passively while still retaining everything. One of the other things that I liked on your website is you you quote yourself, which I'm a big fan of here, of keep it simple, keep it clean, keep it sustainable, and I think sustainability is always concern. It should be a concern of a lot of different businesses and I think, you know, in the midst of a pandemic, we're probably seeing, I maybe, some adjustments to that going on, but can you talk a little bit about why that's an important part of your brand? Yeah, absolutely. So back in I think it was about two thousand and eleven, I realized that, you know, there was a term floting on the Internet called Sustainable Sushi, and previously I had thought senability was more about like recycling and energy management and things like that,...

...but it never occurred to me that Sushi had a sustainable aspect to it as well, and especially because, you know, I live in central Oklahoma and so there's no water around us. You know, we don't get any of the seafood that we sell in a Sushi restaurant anywhere remotely in nearby, so it all has to be flown in and it has to be flash frozen, which is actually the best way to consume seafood. But the thing is is that there's a huge concern with the ratio of the increase in popularity of Sushi and the decrease in sea life populations. So through mass production, or mass fishing, I guess I should say, we have been destroying a lot of the local ecology around and in the oceans, especially around the reefs, and coastal communities have seen a drastic increase in pollution and decrease in the amount of fish that they can catch as smaller communities. But they've seen an increase in what commercial fishing is being able to produce, and so there's a lot of nonprofits out there that are closely monitoring the amount of pollution and ways that we are putting into the ocean, as well, as you know, organizations that are monitoring the populations of fish, especially the more deep sea predatory fish, which happened to be the most common in the Sushi industry. So one of the things that really was harrowing for me to learn is that fresh water eel, or in the Sushi industry we call them Unagi is, actually has decreased in their population by eighty percent in the past twenty years, and that's then almost exclusively attributed to the rise in Sushi on a global level. So the issue with that, as you know, most people say, oh,...

...well, fresh water eel are actually farmed, and that's true, but they're not bread in captivity. In fact, we don't know how eel breed and we have never been able to breed eel in captivity. So what happens is that these huge commercial fishing vessels will go out and they will catch a bunch of baby eel and bring them inland to then raise on an aquaculture farm, which is terrible for a number of reasons. First of all, they are carnivorous creatures, so they need to eat anywhere between two and eight times their body weight in meat each day. Too. They are very slippery, as you might you know, guess, but they are also excellent escape artists. So periodically they have to administer like antibiotics or anti viral medications into the water and they have to change that water out. So when they go to change of water, a lot of eels escape and when they escape they go into the local ecosystem and basically just recavoing a lot of times, especially in like Vietnam, they have fresh water eel farms and a lot of those eels escape and end up getting into rice patties and they eat all the Shan the rice patties, destroy the rice patties and then end up dying in the rice patties and then killing the whole crop as well. So they have kind of gotten a reputation of being invasive and so across the board, eating eel is kind of a bad idea at this point and we don't really have any clear paths into how to make that better, other than just teaching people like Hey, maybe skip the freshwater eel and try to eat something more sustainable, like Salmon, for example, or really any kind of whitefish or shellfish is a much more sustainable option than freshwater eel. I had the same mindset of view of...

...like sustainability. I would it's like recycling and, you know, composting and stuff like that, but there's so much more to it and I think it's awesome that you're addressing things like that. And maybe on a related kind of note, how other ways have you had, or what other ways have you had to kind of adjust your business, if at all, during the pandemic? Yeah, so in two thousand and fourteen I started teaching live Sushi classes where people would come into the restaurant that I used to work with and I would teach them in person Hott a real Sushi. So each person gets their own cutting board, their own knife, their own rolling mat and we learn everything from how to make and season the Sushi Rice to slicing the fish, rolling everything together, cutting the rules and then finally we get to eat everything that we make, and that has been wildly rewarding for me personally and professionally. And as soon as covid hit, that pretty much came to a screeching halt. So a lot of in person gatherings were shut down, a lot of restaurants were losing a lot of income, and Sushi restaurants were hit particularly hard because of that. A lot of the ingredients that Sushi restaurants stock are very expensive and have a very short shelf life. So within a matter of a week or two, you know, Sushi restaurants were losing hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in just inventory, and so people felt like if they were going to order take out, you know, they were going to do it from cheaper restaurant, you know, because Sushi's not generally thought of as being like an essential food or like a staple food. So you people would fer to get something like a salad or a burger or something, and so really the live Sushi classes were most heavily impacted for me, so I had to stop teaching those classes all together and it's probably been since March since I taught a live Sushi class. I'm going to be early March, but I...

...would say that's probably sixty percent of my business income comes from teaching in person classes. So now I've had to sort of shift my business focus to doing more online and while I do have a youtube channel, I haven't been very good about being consistent about publishing that content and I've been focusing a lot more on trying to get an online course up and going Nice, nice and what what tips do you have for putting an online course together, because that's certainly a popular thing in the past few years of people saying like Hey, I know a lot about a topic and people have said you should teach this or you know, I'd love to share this with other people. So what kind of tips or challenges or anything have you encountered while you're putting your course together? Yeah, I would say the best set that I have is to host and launch the course yourself and not with a large company that you know, does courses already. There are a few of them out there that I have worked with that have been really, really great experiences, but they've also been a few that I couldn't recommend because, you know, they want you to put it all this work, they don't pay you anything up front, they host the whole online course themselves and then they still look for like thirty seat and because they takes too high percentage of the cut, you don't really earn a lot of money off of that and it feels like a lot of wasted time and effort, especially because, generally speaking, doing online courses takes just a lot of work, and so what I'd recommend is that people start sooner rather than later and not to get too caught up in the perfectionists sort of mentality about it and to definitely launch it yourself. Yes, a good reminder not to get it's the old minimum viable product that you get you get it...

...eighty percent right. And you're I mean I assume you're offering if people have follow up questions, like you're offering support. If, yeah, they were like Hey, I you know, I need I need some more on this this one lesson like. That's that's what the support is for. Like, yeah, a question again that I always like to ask everyone. Is a question, but you wish you were asked more frequently, and I think you touched on this a little bit, but we can head back for a deeper dive here of how can I help my local Sushi restaurants during covid nineteen? I know there's a couple great ones around here in Austin, even in Oklahoma there's some when you're not by water, you can still get great Sushi as so how can people support their local restaurants? I think the best way to support local restaurants, other than obviously ordering take out from those restaurants, is to call them and ask if you can, if you can buy just filet's fish and making Sushi, because I think a lot of Sushi restaurants are very uncertain about how much fish and seafood they should order in, and so I think a great help to local Sushi Restauran mounts would be too, you know, offered a biasons ingredients off of them and then learn how to make Sushi at home. I think it's a really great activity to do while you're quarantining. And I'm a little bias here, but I know a guy that puts a lot of great online content out there on how to make Sushi at home. It's going to say that sounds familiar. Yeah, well then, I guess that that segues very nicely into our top three, which is the top three most important pieces of sushi equipment. So what should people if they're going to start taking your courses? What do they need? Yeah, I think the single most important piece of equivalent for making Sushi at home is definitely a razor sharp knife. I think a lot of people, especially home cooks, sort of Okra, look the sharpness of their knives. You don't need to have like a super expensive knife to achieve a high level of sharpness, but...

...you do need to make sure that whatever knives you are using are very, very sharp. So whether that's going out and buying a new knife than they retain it's edge better than a you know, the knives you currently have, or whether that's taking the time to learn how to sharpen knives you already have, I think that's the single most important aspect. The second most important piece of equipment, I think, would be the rolling mat. So in order to make Sushi Rolls, you have to have a little bamboo mat typically, or you can get a plastic map and you use that to actually to roll the Sushi roll together, and that's super important to have, especially in order to achieve the consistent thickness and the tightness of the roll so that when you go to cut your Sushi roll, it doesn't just all fall apart. And then I'd say the third most important piece of equipment is something that not a lot of people have heard about before, but it's called a Hun Gidy and that's the Japanese term, but basically it's a flat bottomed wooden bowl that is used to season Sushi Rice. So the seasoning of the Sushi Rice is the single most important aspect of making Sushi. And if you seizing your Sushi rice in a wooden container, especially a flat bottomed container, then what happens is when that acidic seasoning hits the rice, if it isn't immediately absorbed by their rice, it's soaks into the wood. Versus if you're using something like, say, for example, a metal salad bowl, the acidity of that vinegar ends up pulling out whatever is soaked into that metal and it puts it into your rice. And so it's really important to season your Sushi rice in something that is wooden and it doesn't have to necessarily have the edges. A lot of people I now have wooden cutting boards and you can, you can definitely season your Sushi Rice on a wooden cutting board. It's just you have to be more careful about not spitting it all over the place. But I would say that's the third most important a lot of people think that having a rice...

...cooker is es central. We're making Sushi at home, and it's not necessarily true. It's nice to have, but I wouldn't say it's required at all. Yeah, I'm much more a fan of something that will prevent me from spilling my rice all over the place, which I certainly have done before with a rice cooker. That's fantastic stuff, Brian. If people want to learn more about you, if they are interested in checking out the online course, they want to confirm all the equipment that they need to get, where can they find you? Yeah, they can find me anywhere on the Internet by searching for secrets of Sushi, and if they're interested in learning more about the Sushi online course, they can find that at thirty days of sushicom fantastic will, Brian. Thank you so much for having out. This was great and, like, like I said at the start of this to you, I really should not record around dinner, because now I'm just so hungry thinking about all this great Sushi to thank you so much for having me though. Appreciate absolutely, and let's end, as we always do, with a Corny joke, but I've even got a Sushi themed one. Nice how does lady Gaga like her Sushi? I've no idea. Rarara, Ra Ra. After it today people love it. I love it.

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