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Diner objects to shape of chef’s creation

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, August 21, 2012, at 7:14 p.m.

A local chef got in trouble after his rice creation offended a diner.

Natalie Cunningham of Andover was dining with her husband and their 16-year-old foreign-exchange student at the Sumo by Nambara restaurant, 11233 E. 13th St. in Wichita, on Saturday night.

At Sumo, diners sit around a grill and watch chefs prepare their meals.

Cunningham said she and others at her table, which included three children, could see what the chef at the next table was preparing: He formed fried rice into a large version of a male’s sexual anatomy, then splashed drops of oil onto the grill to embellish his creation.

Cunningham was outraged, and went to talk to the manager, who told her chefs had done this in the past but had stopped because of complaints. She said she has asked that Sumo put a stop to the practice.

“I was physically shaking, I was so shocked and upset and angry,” said Cunningham, who called The Eagle to voice her concern.

The restaurant said the chef was responding to a request by a bachelorette party seated at his table. Chefs often receive requests from diners who are having celebrations to make shapes out of the food in fun.

In this case, the chef went too far, said Ivy Yang, the restaurant’s owner.

The chef was reprimanded and reminded of Sumo’s code of conduct and “his responsibility to create a pleasant dining environment for every customer,” Yang said in a written statement. The reprimand included no punishment. Yang said the chef, whom she wouldn’t identify, has been a good employee for 12 years and didn’t act with malice.

Yang said a meeting of the restaurant’s management and entire kitchen crew was held to address Cunningham’s concerns. The restaurant tries to maintain a conservative, family-oriented aspect in all it does, she said.

“Sumo is a high-volume, high-energy restaurant that serves guests of all ages and all walks of life,” Yang’s statement said. “We are committed to serving quality food in a fun and entertaining manner. We appreciate feedback — both good and bad — from any of our customers. Their input helps us to create a better, more enjoyable dining experience for everyone who walks through our doors.”

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