By Jeremiah Kalb
The late American celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain once said that if he were to be trapped in one city and had to eat one nation’s cuisine for the rest of his life, it would have to be Japanese.
Revenue Cycle Supervisor Brandon Sakota could not agree more.
One thing that sets Japanese cuisine apart from Chinese is the fresh use of ingredients and the healthy and light appearance of the food.
“Things are fried less,” Sakota says. “It’s cleaner eating.”
While Japanese food has become synonymous with sushi and tempura, it has much to offer in terms of slow-simmered stews, grilled skewers of meats and vegetables, savory pancakes, and endless noodles.
Sakota is a fourth-generation Rexburg resident with family roots that go back to Hiroshima, Japan.
His great-grandfather, Kisaburo Sakota, migrated to Eastern Idaho in 1915, where his family built a thriving enterprise farming grain, barley, and potatoes on 1,800 acres just north of Rexburg.
The internment of Japanese Americans after the events of Pearl Harbor shattered much of the Sakota Japanese culture. “Most of the Japanese people did everything to Americanize themselves, out of fear,” Sakota explains.
The only thing that remained for the Sakota family was their cooking.
By age 15, Sakota was learning how to cook Japanese from his mom and aunt. “For the more advanced stuff, my Aunt Carolyn started with the basic sushi rolls,” he says.
Sakota later moved to Salt Lake City for college, allowing him to go to numerous sushi restaurants. “That’s when I started eating raw tuna and more complicated sushi rolls,” he says.
Sakota would take a picture, go home, and try to make it.
It was not easy at first. “Rolling sushi is very hard,” Sakota says with a laugh.
This is why apprentices at Master Jiro’s three-Michelin-star Japanese restaurant devote ten years to perfecting their knife skills and learning how to press the sushi as if it were a baby chick.
Once Sakota got the hang of it, he started rolling sushi on the side for friends to help pay for some of his college expenses.
To make sure his housemates did not get in the way, Sakota would order them out of the apartment so he could own the kitchen for the evening. “It was a good gig,” he says. “I’d make anywhere from $300-$400 every two weeks.” That may not sound like much today, but it was life-saving for a cash-strapped college student. “Plus, it was something I enjoyed,” he adds.
Today, Sakota’s family is happy to sit back and let him roll all the sushi for their New Year’s Day feast which has numbered over 50 members. They set up tables all around the home of Sakota’s parents. “It’s the one tradition that makes us feel closest to our culture,” he says.
With the amount of thought and effort that goes into making sushi that one can be proud of, it’s no surprise that Sakota found his way into the revenue cycle as a career.
His duties include creating reports, analyzing data, identifying lost revenue, collecting payments, and implementing revenue cycle management (RCM) strategies to minimize losses. “You definitely have to be detail-oriented in both,” he says.