Yujia Hu is a chef that combines food and art together. The sushi chef is using his talents to create tiny replicas of people, Jordans and designer gear. Starting at just the age of 18, this chef is paving a new, artistic way of eating shoe-shi.
The young chef is now settled in Milan, but growing up has always been around cultures that love food, as he was a chinese man who grew up in Italy. “I grew up on two completely different cultures, but I must say that I prefer italian cuisine and not chinese.” Now with almost 30,000 instagram followers and a large social media presence, we thought it would be interesting to see where he got his inspiration from and how long his works of art take.
What inspired you to create sushi in such an artistic form?
It’s a mix of my passion for basketball, my artistic background and my job as a sushi chef that became one and led me to create these sushi art pieces.
What is your favourite thing you’ve sushi-ed so far?
I think my favorite one at the moment is the piece I’ve made of Migos.
What’s harder, creating a pair of heels or a pair of jordans?
Definitely a pair of heels. Because it has to be recreated as realistic as possible to the original shape with all the details.
What is your favourite brand of shoe wear?
If I need to use it to play basketball, I prefer Nike. When it comes to casual outwear, I prefer Adidas.
How did you get into sushi making and what is your favourite to eat? (sushi + sashimi)
I started to make sushi about 10 years ago, when my family decided to open a small japanese takeaway restaurant in Milan. Unfortunately I had to leave my studies from the school of art I was attending, as the eldest brother, I had to manage the business at only 18 years old.
Since then, I’ve never stopped making sushi. I have to say that I prefer sushi and not sashimi.
How long has the longest sushi creation taken?
About 2 hours to make Migos, because they are 3 people.
Did you come up with the name shoe-shi or was that a happy coincidence?
It was a happy coincidence. At the beginning I wasn’t even thinking on giving a name to my creations, then a journalist who wrote an article about me used “ shoeshi” for my sneaker pieces. I loved the idea, that’s when everyone started to called it “shoeshi”.
You’re Italian born, but Chinese. How has it been to grown up in cultures that love and celebrate food?
I was actually born in China, but I have always lived most of my life in Italy, since I was 8 years old. I grew up on two completely different cultures, but I must say that I prefer italian cuisine and not chinese (and other cuisines) because it’s a ‘simple’ cuisine, yet at the same time, you can make a lot of delicious and healthy recipes.
Have you always wanted to work in food? Why?
Not really. I was attending a school of art before being a sushi chef. I wanted to finish it, but at a really young age, I had to take my responsibilities towards my family. But I must say that I am very grateful to have learnt a millennial art like a sushi man, because without my abilities I couldn’t make my pieces of sushi art.
What is your favourite part of the creation process and how do you go about it once you have an idea?
Once I have the idea, I start focusing it on my mind, and take a picture of it and recreate it. I like to start as early as possible without over thinking, because I know I can make some corrections during the process.
I prefer the final step actually, when it’s finally time to take a picture about my creation, and see it complete overall with all the details.
You have a lot of references to pop culture, do you get any backlash or haters about your food?
Yes, I had some haters actually. But only a few of them have written to me directly, some others have criticized my work from a culinary point of view. Some say that it’s just a waste of food, but I actually don’t throw away my creations, instead I eat it to give it to my customers, friends or family.
What is the best type of fish to work with when creating sushi art and why?
I prefer to use salmon more than the other fishes, because it’s always in my fridge, I love its colour and the texture, and it sticks to the rice perfectly.
Do you think you’re paving the way for artists to become more creative in the kitchen?
I think so, I have already seen some people on the internet who tried to recreate my shoeshi pieces.
Do you think you’re going to take this as a serious profession or keep it as a hobby?
Definitely I’m working on it, I would love to see some of my pieces in an art gallery one day.
Any secrets to success you’re willing to share?
My secrets are, working hard and especially a lot of patience and practice!
Do you have any projects you’re working on currently, and where can we find them?
At the moment I’m working on sushi rappers and music artists. All of my projects, once their done are posted on my instagram page.
You have 30K followers on instagram now, do you have anything to say to your followers?
If it would be possible, I would thank them all one by one for all their support given to me everyday. I am really grateful that people appreciate my art. And I want to encourage them to never give up on expressing their creativity and talent, because if I made it, they can definitely make it.
You can find the chef on instagram and twitter at @theonigiriart.
Words: Tooba Haq | Subbing: Melina Zachariou