Interview: Sushi chef Tracy Griffith makes sushi American style

NBC News: Today
01/11/2005

AL ROKER reporting: What’s up with this music?

Offscreen Voice: It’s exciting music.

ROKER: Switch the music.

This morning on TODAY’S KITCHEN, we’re featuring a sushi special made by a special chef, Tracy Griffith, the sister of film star Melanie Griffith. Got tired of trying to get her name into Hollywood lights, so she turned her focus to her other love. Now, Tracy’s one of just seven female sushi chefs in the country. With a new restaurant and a new book, Tracy’s here to teach us how to make sushi American style.

Ms. TRACY GRIFFITH (“Sushi American Style”): Yes.

ROKER: Tracy, good to see you.

Ms. GRIFFITH: Hi, Al. How are you?

ROKER: So why sushi? I know you’re like the first female graduate of the California Sushi Academy.

Ms. GRIFFITH: Yes, I was.

ROKER: What’s it about sushi that attracted you?

Ms. GRIFFITH: I just loved sushi. I loved to cook, but sushi was a total mystery to me, so I decided to go to school to learn how to do it. And I did.

ROKER: All right. And–and you decided…

Ms. GRIFFITH: And here we are.

ROKER: You created a book. Because for a lot of folks, they’re a little nervous about handling raw fish and…

Ms. GRIFFITH: Yes.

ROKER: …dealing, so you came up with stuff that we–we normally eat and turned it into sushi-type rolls.

Ms. GRIFFITH: Right, right. Because sushi, the word sushi actually means seasoned rice, which is what this is.

ROKER: Mm-hmm.

Ms. GRIFFITH: So whatever you roll up with this, you are making sushi.

ROKER: All right.

Ms. GRIFFITH: So you can roll up meatloaf, whatever you want.

ROKER: Meatloaf?

Ms. GRIFFITH: Meatloaf is good.

ROKER: New–new ways to get rid of leftovers.

Ms. GRIFFITH: That’s right. It’s excellent.

ROKER: Now we’re making a steak sushi roll here.

Ms. GRIFFITH: We’re making a cowboy roll, the all-American cowboy roll.

ROKER: Yee-haw!

Ms. GRIFFITH: And the first thing you want to do is get your hands wet, Al, because you’re working with sticky rice.

ROKER: OK. OK.

Ms. GRIFFITH: So you dip that and do a little sushi clap. That gets your water perfect on your hands.

ROKER: Mm-hmm.

Ms. GRIFFITH: And we’re going to take about a lemon size of sushi, just a soft ball of it gently.

ROKER: Uh-huh.

Ms. GRIFFITH: Put it right in the middle of your nori.

ROKER: OK.

Ms. GRIFFITH: And you’re just going to spread this out all over.

ROKER: OK.

Ms. GRIFFITH: Gently.

ROKER: Gently.

Ms. GRIFFITH: You don’t want to bruise your rice.

ROKER: Oh, there’s nothing worse than bruised rice.

Ms. GRIFFITH: You want it to be–it’s very tender rice.

ROKER: Mm-hmm.

Ms. GRIFFITH: You want to be very delicate and tender.

ROKER: Nobody wants to eat a sushi roll with rice with band aids on it.

Ms. GRIFFITH: That’s right. With battered rice.

ROKER: Mm-hmm. OK.

Ms. GRIFFITH: OK. And now we’re going to take little pink peppercorns. This is going to season the outside, and just shake that on there. It’s very easy to do rolls. I know I hate to bust the sushi mystique, but it’s the other stuff that’s hard.

ROKER: Oh-oh. You heard it here first. First, Lincoln, now the sushi mystique.

Ms. GRIFFITH: I know, the sushi mystique.

ROKER: Everything getting busted! OK.

Ms. GRIFFITH: All right. Now take the top corners and flip it.

ROKER: Flip it.

Ms. GRIFFITH: And–and just pink your edges down at the bottom. There you go. Then you put a little blue cheese.

ROKER: OK.

Offscreen Voice: Blue cheese?

Ms. GRIFFITH: And we’re just going to spread this right down the middle of the nori.

ROKER: Ooh.

Ms. GRIFFITH: Right in the line.

ROKER: Because I love blue cheese with steak.

Ms. GRIFFITH: Blue cheese and steak, it’s classic. I was just thinking of classic American combinations…

ROKER: Uh-huh.

Ms. GRIFFITH: …like, well, I’ll talk about the BLT later.

ROKER: OK.

Ms. GRIFFITH: OK. Now we’re going to put baby arugula…

ROKER: Baby arugula.

Ms. GRIFFITH: …just in a line right down on the cheese. Just mash it down in there.

ROKER: Oh, baby. OK.

Ms. GRIFFITH: And then your red onion. Yum.

ROKER: So this is very aromatic.

Ms. GRIFFITH: It’s very aromatic and it’s very colorful.

ROKER: Make sure who–whoever you’re with should have it as well.

Ms. GRIFFITH: Yes, they have to have it. And then two–about two strips double down the middle of seared sirloin that’s been seared with a little pepper. OK, Al, now the drum roll.

ROKER: OK.

Ms. GRIFFITH: You hook your thumbs under here.

ROKER: OK.

Ms. GRIFFITH: Hold in your ingredients. You’re just going to flip–I like the drum roll–flip it over like that.

ROKER: OK.

Ms. GRIFFITH: Now lift the edge of your mat and roll it forward again and squeeze all the way down.

ROKER: Squeeze all the way down.

Ms. GRIFFITH: Al, doing good.

ROKER: OK.

Ms. GRIFFITH: And then there you go. There’s your cowboy roll. Tada!

ROKER: Unbelievable! And do we cut this thing?

Ms. GRIFFITH: OK. Now, dip your knife in your water, let it drip down. And you’re going to cut it right in half. Then put your pieces together, dip your knife again, because the rice is sticky. Now you’re going to cut it into thirds, one, two, and there you go. And you just turn it around, just like you see in sushi bars. There. And there it is.

ROKER: Sort of.

Ms. GRIFFITH: Yeah, Al, that’s right. It take a little practice. I swear after like three times you’ll get it. Very well done, Al.

ROKER: Wow. Unbelievable. I know everybody’s–now, what else do we have?

Ms. GRIFFITH: This is, like I was saying the classic combination of BLT, bacon, lettuce and tomato and a little wasabi mayonnaise.

ROKER: Mm-hmm. Ooh, nice.

Ms. GRIFFITH: This is called the sushi shish kebabs. Try to say that.

ROKER: Not easy to say.

Ms. GRIFFITH: Sushi shish kebab.

ROKER: Sushi shish kebab.

Ms. GRIFFITH: It has smoked salmon, prosciutto and cooked shrimp.

ROKER: Suffering succotash!

Ms. GRIFFITH: Suffering–oh, succotash. That might be a good roll.
ROKER: There you go.

Ms. GRIFFITH: This is the roasted asparagus, goat cheese, pine nuts and roasted asparagus with a little balsamic sauce.

ROKER: Mm-hmm.

Ms. GRIFFITH: Then we have the cowboy roll.

ROKER: Right.

Ms. GRIFFITH: And for dessert, we have…

ROKER: Oh, a dessert sushi?

Ms. GRIFFITH: Yes. I have fruit sushi in the book that’s made with coconut rice and pineapple and melon with a little mint and honey dipping sauce.

ROKER: Wow.

Ms. GRIFFITH: So you can really, whatever, it’s limitless what you can do.

ROKER: Do you have breakfast sushi?

Ms. GRIFFITH: I have a green eggs and ham.

ROKER: Um.

ANN CURRY, anchor: Wow.

Ms. GRIFFITH: It’s very good.

ROKER: Let’s get Ms. Curry on in here.

CURRY: Hi, Tracy. How are you?

Ms. GRIFFITH: Yeah, hi. How are you?

CURRY: You make this so much fun.

Ms. GRIFFITH: Thank you. It is fun.

CURRY: And you know what, I have a hard time doing the rolls.

Ms. GRIFFITH: Oh, yeah.

CURRY: Most people do.

Ms. GRIFFITH: Yeah.

ROKER: Here, I thought you might want to try one.

Ms. GRIFFITH: Just try it.

CURRY: Oh, my.

ROKER: There you go.

Ms. GRIFFITH: And I have a little jalapeno dipping sauce with the cowboy roll.

ROKER: All right.

Ms. GRIFFITH: And then you can make up all kinds of different sauces, too.

ROKER: OK, Ann, why don’t you read the prompter now.

Ms. GRIFFITH: Ann, yeah. Go, Ann. Say sushi shish kebabs now. Go Ann, Ann.

CURRY: Go, Al. See you tomorrow.

ROKER: Thanks for coming. We’ll see you tomorrow.

Ms. GRIFFITH: Thank you.