For some years now, the trend of sushi has been more popular in France than ever before. Whether street food, in a restaurant or delivered to your door, it’s possible to eat sushi anywhere. And demand is showing no sign of flagging.

Proof of this was seen in this year’s sushi championship, which was the first of its kind ever held in France. We met up with Eric Ticana to hear about what’s hot in the French sushi scene. He was chairman of the jury for the 2017 championship. He tells us about his career, his activities and the competition itself.

A CHEF NOT BY CHOICE

If Eric had been told 15 years ago that he would one day become the chairman of the jury of a national sushi championship and that he would earn his money by making the famous little Japanese delicacies, he probably wouldn’t have believed us. When asked if it was always his dream to be a chef, Eric answers unambiguously: “Not at all. I became a chef because I didn’t manage to go to university. I failed my school leaving examinations twice. And since I needed money, I looked for a job where I could start without any qualifications or prior knowledge. I actually started out washing dishes at a restaurant.”

So rather than being a dream come true for him, working in a kitchen was merely a good option to earn money. This changed over time. “I picked up my knowledge by working, and gradually took on more responsibilities in my profession by getting better jobs. I was awarded my final certificates internally after twelve years in the profession.”

FRANCE’S SUSHI SPECIALIST

After gaining enough experience in various Asian restaurants, Eric decided to start his own business in 2014. The aim of his project back then was to present sushi to the public and thus raise its quality on the market. He says: “There’s sushi and sushi. Mass production for the market has resulted in quality being replaced by quantity.”

Despite his broad experience, Eric doesn’t consider himself an expert in Japanese cooking, instead remaining modest. Being a sushi specialist means focusing above all on the ingredients, especially the fish. “Today’s sushi suppliers usually sell you a roll consisting of 90 % rice and 10 % fish. But sushi is supposed to be completely different. “In the case of nigiri, the ratio should be 50/50.”

Eric’s creations, which he prepares alone, also use local produce. He thus connects sushi with France’s culinary heritage. His appearances at various trade fairs and participation in competitions drew the attention of Google, which contacted him two years ago. The world-renowned company is now one of his biggest customers, inviting him to events – even outside of France. In any case, Eric can’t complain that business is slow. He admits that he is fully booked until February.

THE FRENCH SUSHI CHAMPIONSHIP

Thanks to his growing fame, last year Eric was invited to chair the jury at the first French sushi championship. Since the objectives and structures of this event were consistent in all respects with his attitude towards sushi, Eric was delighted to accept the invitation. “Even if my nomination still surprises me, it is an honour to have been approached to take part in this project. The championship is an extraordinary experience and an opportunity for those who want to makes a name for themselves in this industry.”

The 2017 event was a big hit and Eric is already looking forward to the next championship, which will be held on 5 April 2018 as part of a culinary fair in Paris. Some big names will be on the jury. Despite the event being shrouded in secrecy, it has already emerged that Pascal Barbot, who received three Michelin stars at the Parisian restaurant l’Astrance, will be appearing as honorary president. The effects of the competition will be felt far beyond France. Along with his or her predecessor, the winner of this event will have the opportunity to represent France at the 2018 World Sushi Cup in Japan.

If you are a sushi specialist working in France, it’s not too late to take part. Click here for all information.