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Day in the Life of a Japanese Ramen Chef

October 3, 2019


This is a Day in the Life in a Japanese ramen shop.
This is Tetsuya, a 41 year old ramen chef living in Tokyo and he’s just waking up for work.
I guess this is his breakfast.
Tetsuya, where’d that come from?
Do you have enough time to get to work this morning?
So Tetsuya has quite a bit on his mind this morning
Because today, he’s creating a new bowl of ramen for the owner but a lot still has to happen before this.
So, let’s see how the day goes.
All right, I think his train is arriving right now.
How did you sleep last night?
So, Tetsuya manages a ramen shop called Kikanbo just a few minutes away from Kanda station.
It’s one of the most popular spicy ramen shops in Tokyo.
Wow this is great inside of the kitchen.
You can see that they actually have the pork bone right there to my right and then to my left they have that pork chashu, it looks so good!
I feel like you can just eat it right now! Oh this smell here is amazing!
So, one of the first things Tetsuya needs to do is check that that ramen broth is being prepared correctly at the central kitchen.
So, what do you check for?
The soup is now ready to be emptied into smaller pots which then gets distributed to the shops and all consumed in one day.
It’s just about nine o’clock right now and Tetsuya had to go out to get the shop ready.
The shop actually opens at 11:00.
So let’s just go around and explore a little bit and check out the shop before it gets a super busy when it opens.
So real estate in Tokyo is quite expensive.
You’ll typically find many ramen shops like this one with limited counter seating.
This means for a Tokyo ramen shop to survive.
It needs to get customers in and out as quick as possible to make room for new customers.
What does it take to clean every morning?
Wow, you guys take cleaning seriously!
So, if you guys haven’t noticed already, they have the ramen shop right here and then right across the street.
They have the kitchen and then back over this way.
They have the Mazesoba shop.
All right next to each other.
So Tetsuya tells me that these days, it’s quite common to have a separate kitchen from the ramen shop since the boiling broth makes
the ramen shop extremely hot and steamy and too uncomfortable for the customers.
Oh, by the way, Kikanbo is opening up a new shop in Hong Kong.
So the HK staff must train here for several weeks to master the art of making Japanese ramen.
Are you excited about the Hong Kong opening?
“Yeah, of course, of course, we are very excited. We’re the best!”
Oh! Tetsuya’s back. What are you doing now?
Although he’s responsible for all the employees and the day-to-day of the shop.
His other task is to create a new Gentei menu.
Which means it’s only offered for a limited time at the shop.
I’ve never heard of something like this. Did you come up with it yourself?
Apparently, Tetsuya has created four limited time only ramen bowls in the past.
And now he’s working on his fifth which is scheduled to be released by the end of this summer.
Now that the four large cooking pots have been emptied out, Tetsuya and his team begin preparing for tomorrow’s batch.
Although the process for making the animal broth will take more than 10 plus hours.
Even when throughout the day that this is only part of the final soup that’s served.
As it’s later combined with a separate fish broth, miso, and other ingredients.
Every morning before the shop opens, Tetsuya must test the ramen to ensure the quality and flavor meet the shop standards.
First, they blend the animal and fish broth and tasted to ensure that blend ratio is correct.
So, when I’m in the kitchen. They have asked me to wear a hat and now I get to taste the ramen.
Hoh, hoh. That’s delicious~.
So this is the fish broth I didn’t get to film earlier. What’s in it?
The shop uses a special San-shu-kon-gou-men noodle which means a mix of three different noodle thicknesses.
And we’re not done yet. Now, it’s time for Japanese called Kenshoku, the sampling of food.
Damn, there’s a lot of food testing going on.
So, apparently the conditions of the ingredients and flavors may vary slightly day by day.
So it’s critical for the shop to taste the finalized bowl before opening its doors to its customers.
So, for the foodies out there. Let me take a moment and explain what Kikonbo Karashibi Miso Ramen is all about.
Kara means a chili spicy while Shibi means a numbing spicy.
The shop uses a unique blend of six different chili.
Wakayama Budo Sansho and Szechuan Sansho, combined with a natural Shinshu Miso.
That’s matured in a 100-year old barrel mixed with cheese, peanut paste and other spices.
All joined with a slow-cooked animal and fish broth.
Producing a rich, deep, and light flavor or in other words; it’s fire.
Tetsuya, can you even eat spicy food?
Oh, they have to make another bowl again. Well, what’s wrong with the first one?
Nice, looks like the bowl passed the final test.
Now, Tetsuya is checking on the Kikonbo shop next door.
Which specializes in Tsukemen and Mazesoba.
So, they have a limited time only ramen that’s coming out tomorrow.
So, they’re actually having a meeting right now to make sure that everything is that the way everything is supposed to be set.
It’s pretty cool to see like this entire process.
So, ramen has to be made into perfection.
So, every morning the staff have a meeting before the shop opens.
They share updates and the new menu items and discuss ways to improve the quality of food and service.
Oh, finally the store is opening. I feel like so much has happened already, but the day is only beginning.
The seats are already filled. This is gonna be a busy day.
So the ramen kitchen is quite a buzz to serve all the customers.
And all the staff must work as a team to create each bowl of ramen.
I almost feel like I’m watching a Formula one pit crew. Everyone seems to know their part.
Nice! Time to cook the Chashu. Tetsuya says that they use a hundred and fifty blocks of pork each day.
What’s that?
Just a little bit afternoon, he gets a bit more time to work on his Gentei ramen.
But he has to present the new ramen bowl to the owner at 5:00. So I hope he has enough time.
So we ordered three different sample noodles for the new ramen. You’ll need to test each one out with the soup to find that perfect balance.
One thing about being in the kitchen is it gets so hot.
It’s actually 38 degrees in there right now.
Oh, and that’s the owner!
So even more than the ramen shop, the central kitchen appears to move at a quiet precision.
There’s not a lot of verbal communication, but everyone just knows what to do and where to be at each moment.
This is one of the keys Tetsuya mentioned for a successful ramen shop.
And now back to the daily routine. Tetsuya has to move the Chashu from the large cooking pots to the marinade.
Wow, he looks like he still has more than a hundred Chashu to go so let’s go check on the ramen shop.
Let’s ask a customer what he thinks.
How’s the ramen?
“Incredible, it’s our favorite.”
Did you get the high spicy?
“I got the high. Yeah, I think it’s- I think it’s good.”
It actually taste delicious.
What’s nice is that the customer can customize the level of spiciness and numbness.
But be careful, that oni level ended me!
Ameyayokocho is one of the largest and historic food markets in Tokyo.
It’s known as a popular street food spot but there’s actually a huge ethnic food market in the basement floor.
Oh, it seems like he’s a regular here.
Now he has to pick up some dry squid on the Main Street.
Finally, back to the shop. It’s just after 3:15, so he needs to get cracking in order to prepare the ramen on time.
Yakumi is a combination of various Japanese herbs and spices such as ginger, green onion, wasabi, and myoga.
Sometimes uses a topping to bring out the flavor of a dish.
So creating new ramen is actually Tetsuya’s passion.
He feels lucky to find a shop that allows him the freedom to create.
He also says that he especially enjoys at making people happy by eating his ramen.
Yo, he’s completed the first sample bowl!
Apparently, what may pass at other shops. Won’t pass with the owner.
Just on time. Now the moment of truth.
I wonder how Tetsuya is feeling right now.
Let’s listen in.
Mmh, that’s a good start.
Okay.
Oh, that doesn’t sound so good.
Whoa, although the ramen didn’t make the cut. I thought the owner was gonna be a lot more harsh but he was quite constructive.
So after that intense showdown, what are you doing now?
In order to track staff work hours, the shop uses time cards. It’s pretty common in Japan, especially in the food industry.
Finally, the broth is in its final stages
You can see him separating the broth and the bones. To think the process started from 9:00 a.m this morning.
And it’s still not complete as there’s also an overnight process before it’s served tomorrow.
Tetsuya says that there’s quite a bit of bone marrow remaining so it would be a waste not to use it again tomorrow.
As it’s the seeds of umami.
So it’s 7:30 right now and it’s still a busy.
There’s people waiting in line. Um, the morning shift is gone. And then you’re having new people here.
So part of opening the new Hong Kong shop is sourcing the ingredients.
They need to see if they can source local chilli slices and replicate the Japanese flavors.
But in order to do this, they’re gonna need to taste and rate all of the chili on the table.
I believe they’re also looking to open shops in Australia and the US.
Good luck with that, Tetsuya.
Where did you go?
It’s about 9:15 right now and ramen shop closes at 9:30. You can see behind me.
Tetsuya is just doing some office work, checking people’s schedules, and then we’ll probably have to clean up after this.
The fabric sign Tetsuya is taking down now is called Noren.
It’s commonly used in restaurants of Japan to indicate when a shop is open for business.
Taking it down means that shop is now closed.
It’s about 10 o’clock right now. The last customer has left and everyone is just kind of like finishing up.
They told me it’s gonna take about another hour-and-a-half for them to clean up this whole entire place just on his day.
Doesn’t end until 11:30, 11:45 in every night.
But basically that is a day in the life at a Japanese ramen shop.
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