Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Otaku South's Sarah Gavigan: Why I Make a $13 Bowl of Ramen

Posted By on Tue, Feb 19, 2013 at 12:14 PM

  • otakusouth.com
The issue of pricing at Otaku South's gourmet ramen popup events bubbled into a pretty lively conversation on Bites this week. Some folks said the $40 tab for a ramen dinner at Silo was way too high for a meal whose centerpiece is a bowl of noodles. Others noted the high quality and local sourcing of the ingredients that Sarah Gavigan, Otaku South's cook and owner, uses (among other points).

Taking a brief breather this morning between last night's Silo event and next week's Cooking With Yazoo ramen dinner at the Yazoo taproom ($50 for three courses and beer pairings for each), Gavigan gave a thoughtful explanation of what she does. Whether or not you're sold on the Otaku South concept (and full disclosure: we on Bites are fans), you have to give Gavigan credit for wading into the conversation.

Check out her comment, reproduced below:

Wow! This is quite a thread. Thanks everyone for your feedback ... good and bad.

Last nights event at Silo was wonderful. $40 for 4 courses is not for everyone, but I do have a good amount of clientele that really enjoy a seated, coursed experience. I enjoy it because I get the chance to bring new dishes into the fold. OTAKU is about much more than ramen.

Ramen is certainly my focus, and the pop-ups have allowed me to serve in different locations, in different ways to different people. That is what I love the most about this concept.

It's true.....I am not a chef, very simply a home cook who jumped the fence. But, I choose to surround myself with very talented and hard working chefs and cooks. I'm damn lucky to have a team around me as passionate about this food as I am. In particular my Sous Chef William Gentry, formerly of Tayst. So I assure you that we cook to the health code and take all the food safety pre-cautions that any kitchen in down does.

You should know WHY I chose to start making ramen....cause I like to EAT IT! I just returned from a week in Los Angeles, where I consumed well over ten bowls of ramen ranging price from $8-$18 a bowl. I interned at a Ramen Shop, I sat with masters of the craft...ramen masters, Izakaya chefs, Yakitori chefs. Every one of them so generous in helping me understand the tradition of making this style of food. Some damn fine ramen. Mind bending ramen. Made from frozen bones shipped from well over 100 miles away. Many use artificial MSG to build that Umami because they dont have the opportunity to work directly with a farmer the way I do.

When I expressed that all my bones and meat (both pork and chicken) come from local farmers, eyebrows would raise.....because they dont have it.

A popular ramen shop in NY or Tokyo will go through almost 500 lbs of bones a week. That's alot of bones. I happen to live in a city that is just a few miles from dozens of amazing pig farmers that can make that happen for me. THAT IS AMAZING.

Yep, a bowl of my ramen cost $13 a bowl. $40 is reserved for 4 course dinners.

Ramen = broth + noodle + toppings

The noodles I buy are from SUN NOODLE, a 30 year company based out of Honolulu, with a factory in New Jersey that custom makes my noodle, as well as those of Momofuku, Ivan Orkin, Ikeman, Daikaoya, Ramen Tatsu-Ya...and the list goes on and on. If you know ramen, and you want to make the best, you use SUn Noodle. I worked for 4 months to build a relationship with a distributor to bring those noodles to me. Before that, I had them Fed Exed in for each event, because I believe in that product so deeply.

I do not want to make a $9 bowl of ramen. I am not interested in that product. There will come a day very soon that a ramen maker will come to Nashville and open a shop making damn fine ramen for $9 with frozen bones and MSG. I will eat there regularly and hopefully have beers with that chef, but I do not want to make that bowl of ramen.

It's easy to make a bowl taste great with artificial ingredients.

So, where is all of this taking me? Not to retirement, I can assure you. Maybe a brick and mortar....I don't know yet honestly. I just may not be cut out for it. That is what I am here to learn.

But in the meantime.......let's go guys.....start making some ramen!!

Sarah G.

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