The self-taught chef has opened ramen restaurant Kinoya in Harrods Dining Hall. She talks about her 40-ingredient creation
You launched your first overseas outpost of Kinoya Ramen in Harrods Dining Hall in London in October. What has that been like?
It's a really tough market right now, so I've come in at a time when it's kind of disruptive. But if you can make your business work right now, there's a great learning opportunity.
I've opened this restaurant with three people and I've cooked every single bowl of ramen, so that's about 1,400 bowls. I'm not a stranger to hard work, but this has been the hardest thing I've ever done.
I do have a team from Kinoya Ramen in Dubai, but we never expected the sponsorship visas for the staff to take so long. But again, that's the nature of opening. My operations manager has been here from the beginning and has been instrumental in getting us here.
Did you always want a second site?
We always said we will expand when the opportunity is right, so we were not in a hurry as Kinoya Dubai is in a really good place. But Harrods is amazing and it's such a good way to test the market. We were on their radar and they got in touch and asked us if we'd like to open. It was a no-brainer. We knew we wanted to.
Nobody really teaches you how to make ramen; it's something you have to decipher for yourself
Before Kinoya, you were a film producer. What did you learn from that experience?
I was a film producer for 10 years and it really helped me when opening restaurants, as there's a project management element across both roles. My job was about facilitating for creative people, but I always wanted that outlet for myself so I started cooking and hosting dinners, four days a week for three years. I said to myself, "The minute I can match whatever I was making as a producer, I would make that shift," and I did.
Where did you have your most memorable bowl of ramen?
I had never had ramen when I started making it. I had my first bowl of ramen six months after I started the supper club. I thought, I should go to Japan and actually see what I was trying to do and it was just a rabbit hole – I loved making ramen and I couldn't get enough of it. I started going to Tokyo every year. Nobody really teaches you how to make ramen; it's something you have to decipher for yourself.
How do you overcome feelings of self-doubt in this industry?
I'm a self-taught chef, so for a really long time, I didn't even call myself a chef. I always said I'm a cook because it was really hard to find my place in an industry where chefs do so much studying. But in the end I realised I love doing what I do.
I started because it's a creative outlet for me and I still apply that principle: just keep doing what you are doing, no matter what anybody else has to say. And it's not like I can stop.
How did you create your signature shio paitan broth?
It's definitely the bowl that launched everything. It's a hybrid of the various flavour profiles I loved in Japan. A lot of the ramen I tried was incredible, but also extremely one-dimensional. Personally, I like ramen with a lot of layers, so when you start and end the bowl, you taste lots of different things.
The dish grew with me. It's a salt-based ramen, so it's a simple chicken broth which is cooked for 10 to 12 hours. That's your base broth and you layer it, so for the first round, it's purely anchovy based. And then it has dashi, a foundation of all soups in Japan, and katsuobushi salt. It also has mayu, a burnt garlic oil, which is used in tonkotsu and is not traditional, but I really loved it so that's in my shio. It's a bowl which has over 40 ingredients, from the broth to the finish.