Chef Spotlight: Guy Vaknin of BEYOND SUSHI in NYC
Guy Vaknin moved to New York in 2005 after finishing his military duties with the Israeli Defense Force to pursue his dream of working as a chef in America. He studied at the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan and after graduating, became Executive Chef at Esprit Events Catering where he managed a kitchen of 30 chefs. After nearly four years at Esprit, preparing cutting-edge dishes for charity galas, corporate functions and high-end weddings, Chef Guy was selected as a contestant on Fox's hit show, Hell's Kitchen. Following his time working with Gordon Ramsey, Chef Guy and his wife Tali opened their first Beyond Sushi in lower Manhattan in 2012. After 10 successful months, the two expanded to open their second outpost in Chelsea Market, then a third in Midtown West. The duo will now bring Beyond Sushi to the Financial District and Herald Square. Chef Guy credits his passion for cooking to his Moroccan and Israeli roots.
Broadwayworld.com had the pleasure of interviewing Chef Guy Vaknin for our "Chef Spotlight."
What was your earliest interest in cooking?
My earliest interest in cooking stemmed from my childhood. My parents were divorced at a young age and so my mother had to work two jobs to support my sister and I. I was always the one in the kitchen creating dishes for us to eat.
Who were some of your career mentors?
I don't have any specific career mentors, most of what I have learned and admired have been from years of reading cooking books, which inspired me to take on different cooking methods and to utilize ingredients in the most unexpected way.
What culinary styles have influenced your career?
I love cooking Middle Eastern food. Working as a catering Executive Chef allowed me to work with global flavors and that is what has influenced me to bring them on in the Beyond Sushi menu. I love altering the state of fruits and vegetables by using a combination of cooking methods such as dehydrating and adding a unique twist with certain marinations and combining herbs and spices that aren't the norm
What do you consider the most distinguishing features of your work as a chef?
My personal culinary approach is unique. I come up with different flavor profiles that complement each other then marry them into a sushi roll. This roll is more like a vessel for me, it holds all of my ingredients together so that each time a customer comes in, they will always, consistently have the same bite every time.
What is your favorite meal?
I love rice pudding
Tell me a little bit about your restaurant for our readers.
Beyond Sushi is a 100% plant based eatery with locations in Union Square, Chelsea Market, Midtown West, its newest sit-down location with full-service at 134 W. 37th Street in Herald Square, and a fifth set to make its debut in the Financial District in June. We use fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to create unique dishes such as vegan sushi, noodle bowls, dumplings, and rice paper wraps in each of our locations.
About Beyond Sushi
Beyond Sushi strives to popularize a modern approach to traditional sushi by crafting intricate and wholesome dishes that are as pleasing to the eye as they are to the palate. Beyond Sushi's mission is to promote a sustainable, all-natural, and compassionate way of eating. Their promise is to refresh and nourish your bodies while creating a new standard of clean eating. The restaurant's vision is to create a world in which society will better their daily eating habits and reduce their ecological footprint. For more information and locations, visit www.beyondsushi.com.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Guy Vaknin