"It's all about the rice"
"It's all about the rice," said Hla Tun, owner of U.T.K. Corp. Sushi & Asian Cuisine.
Tun, a Mt. Juliet resident, is a former major sushi company franchisee who had a better idea than what the franchise operation could produce. He took the leap and branched off to create his own sushi-making company.
Once he opened the doors to his new business, Tun focused on one thing, and one little thing only: rice.
He knew that making a special sticky rice as the main ingredient in his sushi would make the product stand apart from the competition. The small, white morsels take the longest amount of time out of all of Tun's ingredients to prepare, but the payoff is worth it. He's sealed a majority of his deals after just one bite of his sushi.
He doesn't stop at the rice. All of Tun's ingredients are extremely fresh, prepared daily and held to the highest quality standards possible in food preparation. There isn't one piece of sushi that leaves Tun's kitchen that isn't checked.
"I'm proud of my product. It's the quality of it I believe in. If I wouldn't want to eat it, I won't sell it," Tun said.
Those bite-sized pieces of sushi have won over quite the audience in Nashville and surrounding areas. Tun offers a variety of services such as working live sushi stations at special events and catering parties, but has found that the largest need for his product comes from daily drop offs to large organizations. Vanderbilt University receives all of their sushi products from Tun, and Trevecca Nazarene University and Centennial Hospital also receive daily deliveries of Tun's sushi.
"It's easy for them, because I create and box the product. I drop it off daily at specific times, and offer either a per piece price or a commission-based payment. We're flexible with our pricing and delivery, and that helps the companies offer sushi at a cost that benefits both of us," Tun said.
Wanting to succeed not only comes from Tun's business-oriented personality and work ethic, but it's also to honor his family back in Rangoon, Burma. Tun left Burma in 2001 to find a better life in the United States. He hasn't been back to the country, or seen his family, since.
“U.T.K. stands for my father's initials,” Tun said. “It helps remind me what I'm working hard for, and it keeps my priorities in place.”
Tun plans to open a sushi and Asian cuisine restaurant in Mt. Juliet in 2013. He envisions a lounge-like space where people can come in, relax and try sushi made differently than they've ever had before. He will soon be offering sushi-making classes as well, allowing customers to learn how to make the special treat on their own.