AGE: 38
OCCUPATION: sushi chef
HOMETOWN: Morton Grove
LIVES IN: Rogers Park

Jess De Guzman didn’t exactly try to become a sushi chef; the job kept falling into his lap. In the mid-1990s, he was slinging cocktails at Tsunami in the Gold Coast when, one night, the sushi chef asked him to give maki-making a try. De Guzman proved a natural, and the chef offered to train him, but De Guzman went to Hawaii for a year instead. When he returned to Chicago, he went for a bartending tryout at Sushi Wabi on Randolph Street—and ended up behind the sushi bar. Now the executive sushi chef at Sunda, De Guzman says he’s good with his hands and will grudgingly admit that, perhaps, after all these years, he has a certain talent for inventing the original sushi creations that have become some of the restaurant’s most memorable offerings. When not putting in 12-hour workdays, De Guzman says he can be found exercising at the gym or hibernating with his wife, Kathleen, and their dog, watching reruns of CSI. When he does venture out, a trendy scene is the last thing he craves. Says De Guzman: “If a place doesn’t look like a bar, I’ll go there.”



Photograph: Maria Ponce