California Roll, forefront, alongside Rainbow Roll at Namiko's Sushi Bar in Colorado. (Photo: Seth McConnell/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Today sushi is well-established as a popular restaurant destination in the U.S. and Canada, but as a Great Big Story video points out, it wasn’t always so. In 1971, picky North Americans limited their Japanese menu items to tempura and teriyaki. it wasn’t even the raw-fish aspect of sushi that turned most people off (although that probably didn’t help): It was the seaweed. Nobody wanted to eat a lunch wrapped in kelp.

Genius Japanese-Canadian chef Hidekazu Tojo then came up with a sushi roll that put the rice on the outside, the seaweed on the inside, thereby covering up the possibly offensive dark green shade. He then inserted the roll with some palatable flavors like avocado, cooked crab, and cucumber. He called it the “inside-out roll,” but this dish soon got a new name because so many people who ordered it came from L.A. The California roll was born, and now often serves as a bit of a gateway for less adventurous sushi eaters on their way to more complex concoctions like the dragon, green turtle, or rainbow rolls. Chef Tojo was appropriately rewarded for his efforts by the Japanese Ministry Of Agriculture, Forestry And Fisheries, appointing him the nation’s goodwill ambassador for Japanese cuisine. And sushi fans have been grateful ever since.