You can find Charles Wilemon and Bradley Garcia manning Benji’s Sushi Stand every weekday from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. Wilemon is a veteran of Bon Appetit who has worked at a number of the food stations on campus.
“I started off doing sushi at the Preserve,” said Wilemon.
“About five years ago we used to do a rotating menu every night. We started doing sushi once a week […] after the remodel they opened up a sushi stand and they tried running it with other people and it just wasn’t working, and then this year they put up a full-time sushi stand with me and Bradley running it.”
Garcia, now 20, originally worked in Rastall. “I started doing omelets and they’ve always been trying to get me onto sushi full-time with Charles and then once we got a new omelet guy they moved me to sushi full-time,” he said.
Both Wilemon and Garcia say they enjoy the company of students while they work.
“The best part is just talking to you guys,” Wilemon said. “Most of you are really cool. Seeing different viewpoints because, you know, I’m from a different generation. I’ve got twenty or thirty years on most of you guys. My daughter is the same age as you guys. So it’s just that I have different viewpoints and it’s sometimes really cool to hear your different views and takes on things.”
“I like to talk to you guys,” said Garcia. “You have a lot of fun things to say. But for me it’s for a different reason. It’s like, you all are my age. A lot of you are a little bit older than me, a little bit younger than me, so it’s like talking to kids from school and stuff.”
Sometimes, though, we can get on their nerves.
“The most annoying thing is listening to all the things people take pride in that I don’t feel they should take pride in, like who they slept with, the drugs they did, or how much alcohol they drank,” Wilemon said. “I mean, I did it when I was in my early twenties, but it gets old really quick.”
It’s not just the party culture that can be a nuisance for Wilemon. “[One example is] people spouting off stuff that their professors told them as gospel instead of thinking for themselves,” Wilemon added. “When people come in my line I try to get them to think for themselves. I’ll say ‘That’s a cool viewpoint, but what’s the practicality behind that or how would you implement that certain viewpoint?’ I play devil’s advocate a lot.” In response Garcia added: “That’s one way of putting it.”
“I’m not really as mean as I come across,” Wilemon clarified. “My tagline for us is ‘Highly Inappropriate, Mildly Offensive’ just because when we get on a roll we forget where to stop the jokes. We’re never intending to insult anyone or question someone’s beliefs because your beliefs are your beliefs, and no one should have a right to change that in you. But sometimes when we’re joking around we forget where that line is sometimes. But we never mean to be offensive.”
“It’s something that you have to do perfectly, you have to really pay attention to it,” Garcia explained. “You can’t just kind of throw a burger on the grill or whatever. You have to actually cut everything exact lengths. It has to be perfect and I have a very meticulous attitude towards cooking. I’ll do things that would make a lot of chefs be all like ‘Dude, just do this. Don’t add all the little details and stuff,’ but with sushi you have to do all those little details so it’s really fitting for me personally.”
“The aesthetic,” answered Wilemon when asked about why he loves his work. “You have to be precise. If you do it right it looks good when you’re done with it. It’s kind of like artistry on a plate.”
Wilemon spent some time in Japan and noticed some not-so-subtle differences in sushi’s American counterpart.
“American sushi is covered in sauces and has rice and is almost always a roll of some sort,” said Wilemon. “In Japan, sushi is usually nigiri style, which is the fish over the rice. And you don’t get a choice. You walk into the restaurant and you pay your money and the chef puts the food in front of you and that’s what you’re eating that night. That was my first experience with uni, which is sea urchin. Don’t like that at all. That’s really salty. It’s an acquired taste.”
One of Wilemon’s notable features is his tattoos. He has a dart frog inked on his right arm and a design with a leaf inked on the left.
“I got the frog because my grandmother was really into frogs,” he said. “Growing up she had frogs all over the house and when she passed away all the grandkids decided to get frog tattoos. So we all got frog tattoos and I got a dart frog because I also collect them as pets. I have four or five different species at home.”
“I always liked the fall,” he explains when asked about his leaf tattoo, “but in Colorado the primary color is gold and brown, so I got the leaves so I could remember what real fall looks like to me.”
When you’re in Benji’s waiting for your sushi, or just standing around because you’re bored, talking to Wilemon and Garcia can lead to some fun conversations. All it takes is someone asking a question. Sometimes students have a tendency to stay in their own bubbles when they’re not with other students. Wilemon and Garcia are prime examples of the engaging kind of people who work at and with CC that someone might miss out on if they stay in their bubble.