The one not looking up from the work at hand, with sweat trapped in his brows and glasses on his face, is in the zone.
Crab, baked whitefish, cream cheese, asparagus and avocado have collided and combined and exploded into deliciousness called a volcano roll.
It is bona fide sushi. It is undeniably art.
Although there are no paints, palettes or brushes to speak of, it is evident that Samuel Pacheco is a skilled sculptor of magnificent pieces without wooden frames.
Pacheco, a 30-year-old former pancake house chef, is producing brilliant hues of sushi that could make the rainbow jealous with tuna, eel, octopus, red snapper, salmon and additional water wonders.
With ease and aplomb, he meshes the seafood with rice and vegetable soul mates for sushi people adore and keep coming back for more.
“I’m addicted to his sushi,’’ said Brian Cooper, a Myrtle Beach resident who enjoyed a volcano roll with his sweetheart, Sherry Ross. “I’m telling you, it’s that good.”
Until Ross actually got him to try sushi, Cooper stayed away from it.
“He is country-born redneck who was stuck on meat and potatoes,” Ross said. “Then, I talked him into eating sushi. The sushi here tastes heavenly.”
For eight years now, Pacheco has worked as a sushi chef at Indo at 980 82nd Parkway in Myrtle Beach. It is one of two locations on the Grand Strand, with the other spot at 47-A DaGullah Way in Pawleys Island. His sister-in-law, Laura Heryadi, owns both. She, however, keeps court in Pawleys Island, while Pacheco holds down the sushi land in Myrtle Beach.
He is there is six or seven days a week, making sushi with the energy and passion of an Olympian going for the gold. The key differences are he isn’t an athlete and he isn’t on anybody’s television screen. Nonetheless, Pacheco, a native of Puebla, Mexico, goes hard every single second he is on the clock.
“His work ethic is something that is very rare around here,” said Anthony Mazza, a server and bartender at Indo. “I was raised in an old, Italian family, where you work seven days a week to provide. I have seen Samuel work three months straight, seven days a week, without a day off.”
Pacheco’s 32-year-old wife, Lilly Corirossi, said he is certainly a man who grinds without fail. The job of making sushi has to be done, and he knows how to make it happen.
Heryadi trained her brother-in-law who learned quickly. Within six months, he was making righteous moves all on his own. He hasn’t stopped since 2009.
“So far, I have to make about 200 sushi rolls a day on the weekend, and about 400 during the week,” said Pacheco, who also somehow finds time to help his 8-year-old identical twin sons, Kyle and Logan, with homework when they are visiting the restaurant, which is often.
Most of his days are super busy and find him working with intense focus, speaking spontaneously but not continuously, to customers as he slices, dices, bakes, and occasionally fries his way through the day.
He jokes with customers and flashes his megawatt smile while glancing up every few seconds as he prepares what makes their mouth water.
Art comes out on each plate. Sashimi and vegetables are presented in the shape of lotus flowers. Shrimp tempura, crab, eel, asparagus and cream cheese snuggle inside of rice before being topped off with avocados and masago (roe) to make sushi called a dragon roll that really looks like dragons seen on Chinese calendars.
What is plain in nature become fancy after Pacheco touches it.
“When we met in New Jersey at The Original Pancake House in (West Caldwell) New Jersey,” Corirossi said. “He was skinny and good-looking. Now, he is full of muscle, too much protein from eating sushi everyday.”
Just like now, she was his manager back then, too. He was particularly great at making omelets, pancakes, crepes and the like. Yet, he is better with any dish featuring fish.
“I think being a sushi chef is harder than a regular chef because with raw seafood you always have to be extra careful how to correctly serve it to customers, as well as for sanitation purposes because I constantly have to make sure the fish is stored a the right and exact temperature, other I could risk contamination,” Pacheco said.
Nevertheless, he handles the extra pressure well and does his darnedest to woo each and every customer. He knows there is power in presentation.
“The most interesting fact about making sushi is that it is more like a work of art,” Pacheco said. “I am creating something special, yet so artistic to make customers think whether or not it is too pretty to eat.”
Thus far, nobody Pacheco knows has decided not to indulge. They eat what he puts forth.
“I have been coming here for seven years, and the portion he gives you and the presentation is phenomenal,” said Richard Lewis, a local resident who dined with his wife, Katie. “His sushi is the best in Myrtle Beach.”
Never one to brag or boast or even toast himself, Pacheco just wants to do his job well and give his customers the best service and sushi possible.
His wife thinks his game is perfect thus far.
“He gives his all,” Corirossi said. “He’s responsible, always arrives on time and never calls out sick.”
There is, though, occasional foul trouble.
“Sometimes, we fuss at each other in the restaurant,” she said. “It’s because we spend too much time together, but we get over it.”
Their squabbles never cause the sushi to suffer.
“His sushi is almost as good as sex,” Cooper said.
“Did you say almost?” Ross chimed in.
“I did,” Cooper repeated. “It is almost as good as sex.”
Ross smiled her approval.
With that, they both ate a few more forkfuls of their volcano roll before packing up their leftovers into a carryout tray.
Contact Johanna D. Wilson at JohannasCarolinaCharacters@gmail.com or to suggest subjects for an upcoming column.
This is the seventh and final story in a series about the faces behind beloved eateries.
If you go
Where: 980 82nd Parkway in Myrtle Beach
When: Open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Prices: Sushi roll prices range from $4.95 to $13.95.
For more information: Call 843-692-7000