World-renowned Japanese chef Masaharu Morimoto’s new sushi competition show – Morimoto’s Sushi Master – premiered on June 16, 2023, on The Roku Channel.
And, one of Orlando’s very own – chef MIchael Collantes of Soseki modern omakase in Winter Park, FL – is a part of the competition!
The show tests the sushi skills and abilities of eight expert chefs, with Masaharu Morimoto, J. Kenji-Alt and Dakota Weiss as the leading judges.
Challenges include everything from butchering whole fish and conveyor belt sushi to a full omakase service and more – all for a chance to win the $25,000 cash prize and the prestigious title of Sushi Master.
Morimoto’s Sushi Master is the first-ever cooking competition series focused on sushi – all six episodes are available to stream for free via The Roku Channel now.
Cheer on Soseki chef Michael Collantes and see how far he makes it!
Michael Collantes is a Filipino-American chef and an Orlando native who is driven by the local ingredients of Central Florida and influenced by his impressive repertoire of culinary experiences.
Throughout his decades-long career, he has worked under the tutelage of some of the country’s most celebrated chefs, including Wolfgang Puck, Joel Robuchon, Eric Ripert, Masa Takayama, and Jen Carroll.
Today, he is the Head Chef and Owner of Soseki, a one Michelin star modern omakase restaurant located in his hometown of Winter Park, FL. Collantes also serves as the Culinary Director for the MM Member’s Club at Ava Winter Park and Mila Miami – and, in his free time, he co-hosts Diaries of a Master Sushi Chef on YouTube, as well as his hospitality-focused podcast, 86 The Podcast. Collantes is also a contestant on Season 1 of Morimoto’s Sushi Masters, which airs on June 16, 2023 on Roku.
Tasty Chomps Interview with Chef Mike Collantes, Soseki
Ricky Ly, Tasty Chomps: How did you become interested in sushi and Japanese cuisine?
Chef Mike Collantes: My interest in sushi and Japanese cuisine came from watching late night episodes of Iron Chef in the early 2000s. Right out of culinary school at Valencia. I had the opportunity to join the sushi team at Wolfgang Puck in Downtown Disney Orlando. It was so different and unique from the rest of the restaurant that I wanted to be a part of it.
What kind of preparation or training did you undergo to become proficient in making sushi?
I trained at Wolfgang Puck for a little under four years. I also trained at the original Rangetsu in Orlando where I learned more about traditional Japanese cuisine. The biggest opportunity came from working as executive chef at Bar Masa in the Aria Casino in Las Vegas.
Have you participated in any other culinary competitions before? If so, how did those experiences shape your approach to this sushi competition?
I have participated in small competitions throughout my career, but nothing of this magnitude or tournament style. I really wanted to showcase what we have been doing at Soseki for the past year, so a lot of the inspiration came from my past, working with amazing chefs and the creations we’ve made at the restaurant. I wanted to take an open approach, utilizing the best ingredients we had each day of the competition to create something new.
Are there any particular sushi ingredients or flavor combinations that you enjoy working with or that you think will impress the judges?
For sure, the rice vinegar I brought. It is the same rice vinegar we use at Soseki and has been aging since we opened in 2021. I just wish there was more opportunity to showcase sushi rice operations during the competition.
What are some of the biggest challenges you anticipate facing in this sushi competition, and how do you plan to overcome them?
The biggest challenge for me was time. While it is just fish and rice, it takes years to learn how to master that. So, playing by the rules of the game and trying to keep the integrity of sushi was tough.
Can you give us a glimpse into your strategy for the competition? What will be your main focus or signature style?
My goal was to work each individual challenge for what it is and not have a preconceived objective. If they want dessert, I’ll give them dessert. If they want baked sushi, I’ll give them baked sushi. My main focus was showcasing the technical skills I have in sushi preparation.
What was it like working with / in front of Chef Morimoto?
Chef Morimoto is a chef I have looked up to for much of my career and is considered one of the best sushi chefs in the world. Nervousness is an understatement, but I wanted to create my sushi from the heart, not replicate or try to impress him.
Lastly, what are your overall goals and aspirations in participating in this sushi competition?
The main goal for this competition – which I took very seriously – was to compete at a high level and really exhibit the craft of sushi making. I wanted to push the boundaries of sushi, showing that there is more to sushi in America than spicy mayo and eel sauce.
Photo Credit: Images courtesy of Soseki and Fernando Delgado / 86Media