Greetings! To address your question, a sushi chef is a chef and not a
part of the waitperson staff in a restaurant. In most cases, the chef
is a member of the tip pool by some percentage and being a sushi chef
is a respected and honorable position in a restaurant. To tip your
sushi chef extra is akin to tipping a bartender extra for a fine drink
even though the drink was served at your table by a waitress.
Rist, I discovered in her "Eating Sushi in Japan" article, About.com's
Shizuko Mishima offers these as three of her tips under the heading
"What to do at Sushi Restaurants":
"It's nice to ask the sushi chef for his/her recommendation of the
...Try not to ask the sushi chef to bring you things - like a drink or
your bill...It's nice to offer to buy your sushi chef a drink if
he/she is doing a good job."
The latter seems to infer that doing extra for your sushi chef is an
honorable gesture and, in the grand scheme of things, it is certainly
a great way to be remembered by the chef when you make future visits
to perhaps get some of the better pieces of sushi.
Then I dscovered an article which states tips are divided among the
wautpersons and chef (I've included a medium portion of the article as
it gave some phrases to use as well):
"Even for experienced eaters, common practice is to ask the chef for
recommendations. This demonstrates respect for the chef, and he will
thusly give you the best pieces. At the bar, it is best to place many
small orders continuously rather than one large order at the
beginning. This will ensure continued interaction with the chef. And
it is never bad to throw in a few Japanese phrases:
Konichiwa (koh NEECH ee wah) How are you?
Dozo (DOH zoh) - Please
Domo (DOH moh) - Thank you
Domo arigato (ah ri GAH toh) - Thank you very much
The only thing you should ever order from the chef is sushi and
sashimi. For everything else (your beverage, the check, etc.), ask the
waiter. And try to leave around a 20% tip, as it gets divided among
Therefore, tipping the chef extra would be a sign of great respect, a
way to honor the chef's skill and knowledge and a way to get the best
sushi. The size of the extra tip to the chef appears to be up to the
patron. It is interesting to note that I read on a couple of sites
that tipping at restaurants is seldom seen in Japan.
Then there's this from Guerrilla Sushi Tactics at FatGuy.com (I
thoroughly enjoyed this article):
"Seventh, if you've decided that this sushi chef is someone you want
to work with and learn from (this is just like choosing a
psychoanalyst), ask the sushi chef his name, tell him yours (or
earnestly present a business card with both hands), and give him
twenty bucks (unless he's the owner, in which case no tip is
necessary). Go back soon to reinforce his memory of you, but this time
allow him to choose all your fish (the procedure known as "omakase")."
I hope this information proves to be of assistance.
SEARCH TERMS and LINKS:
restaurant manners japanese [Google search]
Japanese Sushi and manners in a sushi restaurant
restaurant manners japanese sushi chef [Google search]
SoYouWanna enjoy sushi, pt IV
tip sushi chef [Google search]
Fat-Guy.com "Guerrilla Sushi Tactics"