Ramen workshops teach hopefuls tricks of trade

by Junji Yamaguchi

Kyodo

A company in Yachiyo, Chiba Prefecture, has organized a series of workshops for aspiring chefs interested in opening ramen restaurants to teach them how to make noodles, manage their businesses and even design interiors.

Many of the participants are former company employees who lack experience or the expertise needed to make ramen or to run a restaurant, according to Shokuno Dojyo Co.

Shigekatsu Akimoto, 51, president of the company, said the number of participants at workshops is limited to around five each time so that training can be repeated as many times as needed until all participants thoroughly understand what they are getting into. Shokuno Dojyo, which literally means “food training hall,” will refuse to accept applications beyond that limit.

At the 15-day event, a total of about 10 owners of popular ramen restaurants across Japan, as well as ramen consultants, offer on-the-job training and lectures. The cost per person for the course is nearly ¥500,000.

After learning recipes for various kinds of ramen stock, including a basic soup based on soy sauce and recent trends such as chicken broth, participants are encouraged to come up with their own original soups by the final day of the workshop.

Akimoto, who sold cooking utensils to restaurants for years, has met many ramen shop owners who found themselves in financial trouble soon after opening.

“Passion or enthusiasm does not always make for success,” Akimoto said. “I thought they needed to have a place to learn know-how directly from winners.”

Akimoto started the training workshop in June 2012 in cooperation with owners of popular ramen shops.

The workshop initially attracted only a few people, but the number has been gradually increasing through word of mouth.

In recent months, even Russians and South Koreans, as well as people of other nationalities, have taken part in the workshop along with interpreters, reflecting the popularity of ramen abroad, according to Akimoto.

So far, about 20 people who attended the workshop have opened their own restaurants.