15 Sep The Man Who Blesses the Sushi
We have a sushi-blesser. Yes, we said SUSHI BLESSER. booyah!
His head occasionally peeks over the massive sushi counter at Newport Avenue Market, checking out the scene and the people milling around. You’ll instantly be privy to his infectious smile and an enthusiastic greeting. Morris is always happy to see you.
Morris has been the creator of amazing sushi for Newport Market for twelve years. He has grown the sushi department to the finest in Bend, often selling out of rolls by the middle of the day. Morris’ creations are nothing short of miniature mouthwatering masterpieces.
His path, however, is even more extraordinary.
Morris (his Burmese name is Myint Thar) grew up in Myanmar, graduating from Yangon (Rangoon) University in 1969 with a degree in Psychology. After college, he began working for a textile manufacturer where he was the liaison between the factory and the German technicians arriving on a frequent basis. With evening classes at the Foreign Language Institute and three cassette tapes, Morris learned to speak fluent German and was instrumental in helping the technicians work their way through Myanmar’s rigorous customs process.
Eventually, the 18-hour days began to take their toll on Morris. In 1980, Morris joined the United Nations Development program as an administrative assistant. During that time, Myanmar was becoming an increasingly difficult place to live as its citizens fought for democracy. In 1989, Morris left his country and began a series of fascinating jobs around the world with the United Nations. His career history includes monitoring and supporting UN doctors in Afghanistan for the World Health Organization, coordinating vaccination campaigns for veterinary clinics in Afghanistan for the Food and Agriculture Organization, and assisting the World Food Programme in Afghanistan and Tajikistan during critical winter months. East Timor rounded out his World Food Programme career as he assisted with Venerable Group Feeding and Food for Work programs. Throughout all of the action in a tumultuous world, a strong chanting and meditation practice kept Morris centered as he served others.
Morris came to America in 2002. He fell in love with the United States and decided that he wanted to stay; he just needed to find a job. One day, a friend called him about an opportunity in Bend, Oregon as a sushi chef. “But I don’t know how to make sushi,” was Morris’ reply. That didn’t matter and in a period of two weeks, Morris was trained in the art of sushi. Determined to excel at his job, Morris would go home each evening and practice his rolling skills on the kitchen table with a bamboo mat, chopsticks, salt and pepper packets, and a towel.
For twelve years, Morris has been working with Newport Avenue Market. From the very beginning, he has understood the significance of knowing employees and customers. He knows how to make people feel important.
Morris takes everything a step further, however. Annually, he temporarily ordains as a Theravada Buddhist monk at various Burmese monasteries for 10-30 days, where chanting is an integral part of life. When he returns to Bend, he chants whenever he can, as it focuses his mind for meditation. Each morning, as he walks to work, Morris chants loudly, toning it down to soft chanting (almost a whisper) when he arrives at Newport Avenue Market. Often, he will make nine rounds through the store (nine is a sacred number in Buddhism), chanting as he goes and sending blessings out to the people of Bend.
What does he chant?
“May all beings be happy. May all beings be peaceful. May all beings be liberated from all miseries.”
Morris infuses his sushi creations with goodwill towards all people and wishes for a prosperous future. Each cut of each roll gets a specific blessing and is filled with loving-kindness.
Morris notes that he used to work for a living. Now, he works for the people of Bend. He is dedicated to evolving sushi based on feedback from customers. In Morris’ sushi, you will find an abundance of fresh, high-quality ingredients. He experiments with interesting toppings. Every detail is intentional, just like how he chooses to be in the world.
His unspoken mantra?
Bless first. Be grateful. Make good sushi.