The Making of Sushi

How I personally experienced the filming of the new SushiMeisterklasse and The Duc Ngo.

Hello, I am Laura. I have just finished my studies and am now a trainee at Meisterklasse to gain practical experience. I'm glad that I can to share my experiences at Meisterklasse with you! Have fun reading!

I started as an intern at Meisterklasse in January. For the shooting of the sushi course with The Duc Ngo, I also got to know the team personally, which was not possible before because of the corona pandemic. It was the first time I had been on a production like this. I had some expectations and therefore was a bit excited.

The set-up for the shoot started on Thursday morning, so I made my way to Deidesheim to the location. We had discussed a bit beforehand what my tasks would be during the shoot and how everything would work, but I had never done anything like this before and was therefore a bit clueless and also a bit nervous. I was also very curious to see whether Duc would be exactly like everyone knows him from TV and social media. 

I was immediately warmly welcomed into the team by everyone and have to say the atmosphere was much more relaxed than expected. The production team was busy setting up the cameras and lighting etc. while we made sure all the required ingredients and equipment were in place.

Über die Meisterklasse

I didn't expect to be sitting in the wine cellar with Duc and the whole team at the end of the filming days, eating Palatinate platters and talking about anecdotes from life.

The first impression: modernity meets tradition

Towards evening, Duc came to the set for the first time, introduced himself to everyone and even brought us caps and bags from his exclusive fan box. He seemed super-friendly right away and I had a good feeling about the next few days. We discussed some changes on the set and once again the schedule and ideas regarding the shooting days. What I immediately admired about him was that he knew exactly what he wanted with regards to the decorations on the set and the lighting. 

He attaches great importance to Japanese tradition and wanted to present it in a modern but above all not tacky way, just like in his restaurants. Simplicity and elegance were important to him. This was also reflected in his manner: he appeared very calm, always polite and respectful and  also mindful of Japanese tradition.

When we finished, the Meisterklasse team met Duc and Masao for dinner. Masao Watari is Duc's chef. They have known each other for over 20 years and Masao has been working in Duc's restaurants for 18 years. While Duc is reluctant to work from recipes, Masao, as his right-hand man, makes sure to record the creations to be able to derive the menus for the restaurants. 

That evening, I didn't feel like I was sitting at the table with strangers, but with people who are incredibly friendly and warm and have so much to say about their lives. Duc talked about past experiences, his restaurants and what he values most in his life and career. 

His countless travels inspired not only his sushi creations, but also the individual concepts of his restaurants. His motivation to open his own restaurant came from the idea of no longer having to travel far to enjoy authentic Asian cuisine. So he opened his first restaurant, Kuchi, in Berlin in 1999, which has since been followed by 13 more, with the prospect of more, all over Germany. Although all his dishes are based on traditional cuisine, they always contain his individual signature, which he developed from the most diverse countries and cuisines. For example, the influence of California, which is why Duc also likes to integrate avocado or mayonnaise. 

In his stories, Duc always emphasised how important family and friends are to him. Many of his family members work for him or with him. You could also feel his appreciation and respect for Masao throughout the evening. 

Totally overwhelmed with excitement, I fell into bed in the evening and was already very excited about the next day, when the shoot would officially start.

"Camera rolling, set and go!"

Enthusiastic, but definitely a little more relaxed than before, we started the second and thus the first official day of shooting. Before the shoot, there were still some preparations to be made. This included a Corona test for the whole team, the last changes on the set and Duc had to go for make-up. After all the preparations were done, we started shooting. As if by magic, everyone took on some kind of role with specific tasks during the shoot. I immediately noticed how well-rehearsed the team already was and how easy it was to fit in. After one or two attempts, Duc too had settled into the situation, which was also new to him, and delivered one episode after the other.

During the lunch break we sat together with Duc and he explained that the way of shooting was equally new to him and that it had taken him a bit of time to get up to speed. He was worried about not being able to say enough about the individual steps of the preparation, which for him were automatic, or about not being able to explain it in a way that was understandable to the layman. We talked briefly about how to explain the steps well and how this could be implemented in the course.

I would say the most popular word of the day was "Super!" or "Mega-awesome!" after finishing each episode.

Meisterklasse vs. Kitchen Impossible?

In the evening, we sat together again over dinner and reviewed the day a little. As I said, such a shoot was also a new experience for Duc. He compared Meisterklasse with the filming for Kitchen Impossible and came to the conclusion that we work just as professionally and thoughtfully, although you can hardly compare the formats themselves. 

He told us that for Kitchen Impossible he was sent to a location really clueless and without much preparation the camera was pointed at him to make it as authentic as possible. In contrast, the focus of Meisterklasse is on precisely planned episodes that are designed to teach the course participants step by step how to prepare the dishes.

Sashimi during the day - pig's stomach in the evening

The next day, everyone looked forward even more to the sushi variations created by Duc, which were photographed by our photographer Fabian after being prepared in the episode and were then ready for the team to try. I have to say that I ate more during the shooting days than I have in a long time. The sushi was just so good! As soon as the episode was in the can, the whole team queued up to get some. 

Duc was kind enough to prepare a few extra portions for us, whether sushi or miso soup. He explained to us in detail how the rolls were made and about the famous sauces from his shop. We were also allowed to try these and were fascinated each time by the individual taste explosions. I always had the feeling that he was really happy to share his knowledge with us and appreciated our interest. 

The crowning glory was definitely Saturday evening. For Duc and Masao, as Berliners, and me, coming from the Black Forest, the Palatinate was rather uncharted territory until then. But the Meisterklasse team made sure that we got the absolute Palatinate experience - in the wine cellar, with a typical Palatinate platter: pig's stomach, liver dumplings, bratwurst, sauerkraut, etc. and of course in the best company. The atmosphere that evening was relaxed and cordial, so that we were delighted not only with the food, but with the whole ambience. Duc told us about the time before his career as a chef and restaurateur and how he came to become a sushi chef in the first place. He showed us pictures from his days as a sporty boy band aspirant and model. Yes, Duc actually wanted to be a singer once. Why and how the idea came about, more on that later. What I can say in advance: 

Unfortunately, nothing came of his singing career, but we think: all the better for the gastronomy!

In the Air Tonight - a life-changing song!

In the evening, there was already a slightly melancholic mood when we said goodbye, because today was the last day of shooting. Nevertheless, we started fresh and joyful into Sunday and finished the last episodes of the course. Duc told us a little about his life and what the audience can expect from his course. In addition, we interviewed him as part of a Q&A video for social media, for which exciting questions had been gathered from viewers the day before and which Duc answered with absolute composure and politeness, as he had done during the previous days. My personal highlight is definitely the end of the Q&A video, where Duc's past becomes a topic: 

As just indicated, Duc wanted to go into showbiz rather than cooking when he was a teenager. This all started in the seventh grade, when Duc had changed his school. In class, he was asked by a teacher to sing a song. So he stood up, turned to his classmates and sang "In the Air Tonight" by Phil Collins with total conviction. According to Duc, this experience has shaped him a lot and made him the open and fearless person he is today. To prove this, he also had to offer a little singing performance for us. 

Exciting - heartfelt - an all-rounded success!

If I had to describe the filming days in a few words, they would be: exciting - heartfelt - a complete success. The four days of filming the course "The Art of Sushi" flew by just as quickly as my initial nervousness. This was certainly due to all the new, exciting impressions, the experiences and the warm-hearted people. Although I already knew the existing courses, during the day of filming I could imagine more and more of how individual Duc's course "The Art of Sushi" would be like in the end.

We have been able to get to know The Duc Ngo in the Meisterklasse team as a very polite, determined and, above all, warm-hearted person, we are very happy to have him as master. I look forward to continuing to be in contact with him and hopefully visiting him in one of his restaurants soon.