Celebrate the Ramen Phenomenon Tonight at IKEA
Lyle Bento of Underbelly is pretty excited by what he has in store for diners at this evening's event, but he didn't arrive at the recipe immediately.
"I went over a lot of ideas in my head," Bento explains. "I thought of some safe ones, some hard ones and some fun ones. Then I started doing a take on this dish that Chris [Shepherd] had in New York, and it's rock and roll! I really just want to tell the story of this dish."
No word yet on the details of the "rock and roll" meal, but Bento does acknowledge that it's simple and designed to feed poor people, so it fits well within the parameters of the competition. He also notes that it's very representative of both Underbelly and himself as a chef, particularly because he ate ramen often as a child.
"I didn't grow up with a lot of money, and we ate ramen noodles and hot dogs every day," Bento says. "My mom still makes that for me when I go home, and I love it."
The only part of the competition that worries Bento is working with one small pot and a hot plate to feed 250 people. The $3 budget he can deal with, but, as he says, "One pot for 250 people is no joke!"
Photo from Michael Castillo's Twitter
Though there might be a few last minute changes to the recipe, Michael Castillo of Uchi thinks his recipe is ready to shine. He admits to testing several recipes at home, but, he says, "It's pretty filling and not very healthy so the testing didn't go very far."
Castillo thinks the idea behind the challenge is interesting, because so many college students (and even off-duty chefs) eat simple ramen at home because it's cheap and easy to make. He's sticking with instant ramen for the competition rather than making or buying fresh noodles because he wants his dish to be as true to the college ramen experience as possible. Thankfully, though, he threw away the included flavor packets.
One thing that Castillo found challenging was the budget. He quickly realized how much even simple things like a bottle of Sriracha could cost (about $3).
"First you have to figure out what you want," he says. "Then you figure out what you can afford."
With a last name like "Economy," you'd expect the chef of Bar Boheme to have a few ideas about making good food on the cheap.
"When I was in school, I was always broke," Economy explains, "so not having a lot to cook with is something I'm used to. I can definitely make it work."
Economy describes his cooking style as traditional with a southern flare, and that's reflected in the ramen he'll be showcasing tonight. He didn't want to give too much away, but he was able to tell me that it involves ground pork, because he feels it's fairly easy for a college student to buy inexpensive, good quality ground pork. And though he attempted to use instant ramen in his recipe, he found that it just wan't up to par.
"My only complaint with the Instant Ramen is that it wasn't long enough," he says. "Fresh noodles are the only way to go."
When I asked Economy if he had any smack talk for his fellow competitors, he laughed and brushed the question aside.
"I'm a really laid-back guy," he says. "Not being cliché, but just being associated with the ramen challenge...I'm more excited to be included with these chefs than to win or anything."
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