Born and raised in the north suburbs of Chicago, Jess DeGuzman developed a love for cooking at a very young age, cooking family meals and experimenting with dishes throughout his teenage years. Naturally he was drawn to the presentation and artistic expression of cooking, and he embraced the process of creating dishes from the “ground up” and it’s this philosophy that led him into the culinary path that he follows today as a Sushi Chef.
DeGuzman began his journey in the food and beverage industry as a bartender at a local watering hole on the North Side of Chicago in 1993. Soon after, DeGuzman began working as head bartender at Tsunami restaurant in the Gold Coast, which is where he was first officially exposed to the world of sushi. Taking a break from Chicago, DeGuzman made a temporary move to Hawaii where he had the opportunity to learn and appreciate sushi and fresh fish. Later, DeGuzman returned to Chicago and landed a job in the kitchen at the popular Sushi Wabi in the West Loop where he was trained under the Head Sushi Chef and honed his skills, and after three years of advanced training, DeGuzman opened up his first restaurant, Sushi X on Chicago Avenue.
Despite much success, DeGuzman’s desire to learn and continue to develop his craft led him to part ways with Sushi X and join the team at Coast Sushi. It was under the Executive Chef’s tutelage where DeGuzman refined his presentation techniques and skills to those of a leading Sushi Chef. From there DeGuzman met Sunda Consulting Chef Rodelio Aglibot and was challenged with the task of creating a full sushi menu for Rockit Ranch Productions partners Billy Dec, Arturo Gomez and Brad Young. In a matter of no time, DeGuzman was named Executive Sushi Chef at Sunda New Asian Restaurant. DeGuzman’s Sushi Menu was integral to attaining “three star” reviews by both Pat Bruno of the Chicago Sun-Times and Phil Vettel of the Chicago Tribune.
After almost a year-and-a-half, DeGuzman continues to dazzle Sunda patrons with his delectable Sushi creations. “I draw my inspiration from Chefs in Chicago and try to blend the umami flavor by involving different textures in the rolls I create,” DeGuzman says. “I have traditional rolls on our menu, but I also try to cater to the Chicagoan palate.” DeGuzman’s simple yet innovative philosophy has remained consistent with signature items such as “ The Great White Tuna,” Escolar wrapped Sushi Rice with potato chip, truffle vinaigrette and shavings have remained a favorite since the opening and his most recent creation “Crunchy Pig, Hidden Lobster,” a roll consisting of a creamy lobster center, with mango, avocado, jalapeno, sweet chili sauce, tempura crumbs, and topped with crunchy bacon, has become an instant classic. Interacting with the patrons of Sunda is something DeGuzman enjoys and attributes to the creation of new menu ideas. “I love to make food,” DeGuzman said. “It’s a way to express my personality into the dishes I create. I enjoy seeing people’s reactions and I consistently visit tables to get their feedback.”