How Ivan Orkin Became a Ramen Guru

In this clip from Chefs Feed, Ivan Orkin shares how he developed a passion for ramen and the obstacles he faced when opening his restaurants in Tokyo and New York City.

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[SOUND] I think for all chefs the big challenge is convincing people to give you a chance. If I could get enough people to come in and taste my ramen, I thought my ramen was good enough that I would become successful. [MUSIC] People say to me well how could a foreigner have opened a ramen shop, and and you know how can a white guy get it? You know I didn't really see myself as a foreigner. I lived in Japan for 25 years I speak the language and I basically understand the culture. The Raman shop was really, it was less about me dreaming about having a ramen shop and more about me dreaming about living in Japan and creating A real lifestyle. [MUSIC] I also thought that if I chose Ramen I would get cut a little bit more slack than say sushi, or soba, or some of the cuisines in Japan that are much more rigid. I like to call ramen the maverick cuisine. Every shop does something a little bit different and every shop keeps it as a guarded secret. I was a little shy about getting a job at a ramen shop I'd already sort of did my apprenticeship and got beat up and was miserable once and didn't wanna do it a second time, and so ultimately sort of just decided how to make ramen on my own. I ate a **** ton of ramen. I mean really. Sometimes we were eating three, four, five days a week we were at ramen shops, and so my palette had really started to get an idea of what kind of ramen I liked. I've sort have been a kind of a happy go lucky person a lot of my life. But when I started this business, yeah I was pretty intense and I worked from six or seven in the morning until midnight everyday for two or three years before I got any kind of help I had peace coffee shipped to me from California and I would drink a really good cup of coffee. And I would crank up the Grateful Dead on my speakers. And then my customers would come and I'd speak Japanese and run this little shop. And so it was really all the things I wanted to do in one little package. I got a tremendous amount of press. Dozens of newspapers and magazines and tv shows. In Japan if its got a good story, if its got a cute buzz, if its got a great atmosphere, its a hit. And I liked doing the food was really good. You know now that I've opened shops in Japan and in America, some ways New York is actually much more challenging than Tokyo. You know, I mean to me I get some guy who says to me, I've been to Japan, I know ramen. I'm like you know dude, go **** yourself. There was a good chance that the whole thing would flop. I'm a relatively confident cook and I'm mostly an optimist. [MUSIC] But, hey, I mean, anytime you put yourself out there if you're not a little bit scared you're crazy. [MUSIC]
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How Ivan Orkin Became a Ramen Guru