Nate Hogan inspires attendees to find their own personal style
There was a packed lecture hall at St. James for the Ramen Extravaganza, hosted by chef Nathan Hogan. The hour and a half long session was an ode, to ramen, one of the world’s most renowned foods commonly found in Japan.
Guests were immersed into an experience illuminated by a vibrant presentation, with a personal opening from chef Hogan. Hogan chronicled his fascination with ramen which led to his travels around the world to master the savoury dish. Nothing was missed in the history of ramen, either. From its origins as a single dish back in 19th century China to its transformation into a culture featuring thousands of varieties served in contemporary ramen spots all over the world. Included was the breakdown of ramen from the noodle types to the savoury broth and precise garnishes of seaweed, braised eggs and juicy pork belly.
“Ramen is just as important in Japanese cuisine, just as powerful as the sashimi and yakitori. I think pasta in Italy is easily as powerful as ramen would be in Japanese cuisine,” said Hogan.
The culinary advocates of Tastes of Tomorrow, the group which organized the event, insisted on the food event not being just theory based. The audience was greeted with a well-timed surprise act featuring chef John S. Lee and Riley Bennett, who worked with Hogan and a grizzled team of students in a cooking demonstration. The entertaining pace (and oddly satisfying) process of watching ramen being made was made better with a flurry of pop-quizzes. The rapid fire questions engaged the audience as assistants in providing the steps towards the perfect bowl of ramen.
Ramen is appealing for its simplicity, technique and price point, Hogan said. “It’s not like jiro sushi for a $400 tasting menu. No, that’s for the one per cent. Ramen is for the 99 per cent.”
Guests were served cup noodle-sized samples of Hogan’s ramen, followed by seconds and thirds.
“It’s all about developing your own style,” Hogan advised the attendees. “You can do high-end ramen; you could do dead-simple ramen. I think it’s all based upon finding your strengths with your own style, and just rewrite the rule books to what you do well.” He added, “I’ve been doing ramen for 5 years, and I got miles to go.”