Celebrate the Ramen Phenomenon Tonight at IKEA
Photo by Mai Pham
"From the beginning I went with the idea that it would need to be simplified as much as possible," explains Gaston, chef at Cove Cold Bar.
His goal with his ramen was to make it as clean, healthy and inexpensive as possible. Gaston acknowledges that this might not make for a traditional ramen, but he wants to show people that they don't need meat to make a mean bowl of soup.
"Everything is very clean and very healthy, because that's the way I eat," he says. "I'm using a really good quality fresh noodle that's readily available to anyone." Gaston was sure to add that the type of noodles he's using are from a local grocery store, to emphasize that people on a budget don't have to stick with instant ramen.
Gaston also brings a unique perspective to the throwdown in that he got used to working with limited tools in college. He recalls working with IKEA pots, pans and boards to make food for himself, and he thinks the tools that the chefs have been given for the competition are more than enough.
When asked what he'd say to his fellow competitors, Gaston replies diplomatically, noting that they're all friends. Then he adds: "I guess I would tell them thanks for the trophy tomorrow!"
The Eatsie Boys boys.
As one of the young guns in Houston's culinary scene, Patrick Hart of Eatsie Boys vividly remembers eating ramen while he was in school. It wasn't that long ago.
"I've just gotten out of college," Hart says, "so I was like 'Ramen? That's my meal!' In culinary school, we worked with a lot of really good ingredients, and it's easy to make a good meal with that. It's more challenging without the great ingredients and kitchen."
Still, Hart feels up to the challenge, and he's excited to show off ramen to Houstonians, who seem to have only recently discovered ramen and have gone kind of crazy for it.
"I love ramen, I think it's only going to get better. I'm a huge fan of Tatsu-Ya in Austin. We go there once a month. The ramen craze needs to catch up to that level here, so I'm hoping that these recipes will open people's minds."
When asked what he'd do if he won, he said that he thinks everyone wins in a situation where there's good food and where IKEA is donating $6,000 to the Food Bank. But, he says, it would be nice to have bragging rights.
Photo by Paula Murphy
Chef Cyrus Caclini of Kata Robata approached the challenge with a clear goal in mind: create something that "will help warm up the body during the cold season but is also easy enough for everyone to make."
Caclini says he imagines college students staying up late at night studying and getting hungry. They're cold and tired and don't have enough time to go out and get food somewhere. He thinks his dish will be the perfect solution to that problem.
As for the budget and utensil limitations?
"We all have the same things to work with," he says, "so if anything, it's fair game."
Caclini thinks that the most difficult part of the challenge will be only having one pot to serve 250 people. "It's not even that big of a pot!" he says. "You'll see it. It's not that big."
When I asked him if he had anything he'd like to say to his fellow competitors, Caclini laughed. "There are some things I'd like to say," he admits, "but I don't want to sound arrogant."
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