Art meets cuisine for Executive Sushi Chef Himmi Vasquez, who recently celebrated his 17th anniversary with M Street. We sat down with sushi guru Himmi to hear his inspiring and colorful culinary journey. From his attention to detail to his artistic hand, Himmi brings passion into every dish he serves.
Where are you from?
What brought you to Nashville?
My uncle brought me here when I was 20 years old to learn English.
After moving to Nashville, what did you do?
I started working at the Black + Decker factory. After about 2 months there, I joined Virago at their first location in Midtown as a Dishwasher with my cousin.
How did you start sushi-making at Virago?
I love to learn. I remember when I was a dishwasher, I would have dishes piling up because I was so interested in watching the cooks in the kitchen. Little by little, the cooks taught me what they knew. I learned all about the Virago kitchen, so when the managers were looking for a Line Cook, they asked me to step in. As a Line Cook, I mastered all of the stations. I remember one day Chris Hyndman (CEO of M Street) came in and asked if I would be interested in transitioning to the sushi station.
What made you stick with sushi?
I believe that before anything else, the first taste is experienced visually. I love to make the food I serve beautiful and colorful, like a work of art. That's how I knew working with sushi was my passion.
What is your favorite Virago sushi roll?
I love them all and have probably created about 50% of the rolls on the menu. But, I would have to say The Katana is my favorite because it is so colorful.
What is your favorite type of sashimi or nigiri at Virago?
Fresh salmon. We put a lot of emphasis on sourcing fresh and sustainable fish.
Do you ever cook at home?
Yes. I love making Thai food for my family. I'll make spring rolls or pho.
What about M Street has made you stay for 17 years?
The people that I work with are the reason I have been here for so long. Even from the beginning at Virago in Midtown, these people have been like my second family.
What inspires you in the kitchen?
I love watching documentaries and learning the stories about sushi artists such as Nobu Matsuhisa or Jiro Ono. In my spare time, I like to paint because it gives me new ideas on how to plate my sushi.
When you're not at Virago, what do you like to do for fun?
Playing sports—biking and jiu-jitsu. I also love to spend time with my family—I am currently teaching my daughter how to make sushi.
Chef Himmi's love for his craft can be tasted in every sushi roll he presents. Treating sushi-making as an art form, Himmi uses Virago's freshly sourced ingredients as his artistic medium. We are so grateful to have Himmi as a part of the M Street family and cannot wait to celebrate another 17+ years with him.