People to Know / Punch Profiles : Spotlight on Daisuke Utagawa and Chef Katsuya Fukushima of Daikaya

Daisuke Utagawa, Chef Katsuya Fukushima, and Yama Jewayni-not present
Daikaya’s Chef Katsuya Fukushima, Yama Jewayni, and Daisuke Utagawa. Photo by Farrah Skeiky.

By Punch Contributor Melinda Contreras 

After a customer asked the Daikaya staff, “When are you going to open a real ramen shop?” , showing them a picture of one type of ramen she was familiar with on her phone, the staff saw that there was a lot of misinformation about ramen out there. The staff then saw the opportunity to make customers better informed about the type of ramen made at Daikaya (Sapporo), by offering a Sapporo Ramen 101 Class. Saturday morning classes have thus been held frequently since May, and I had the pleasure of attending one of the classes at the end of August. The hour long class, which includes a history and background of Japanese Sapporo ramen, tastings of multiple broths and toppings including pork and a miso marinated egg, and instruction of how to correctly eat a bowl of ramen, ends with a bowl of ramen of your choice. As I waited for my bowl of Mugi-Miso Ramen to arrive, I took five minutes to chat with Chef Katsuya Fukushima and co-owner Daisuke Utagawa, where we discussed everything from facial expressions to TV dinners.

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The counter where you’ll be seated during class.

Pamela’s Punch: You offer classes at Daikaya to educate consumers about Sapporo Ramen. What dishes or cuisines would you take a 101 class on?

Daisuke Utagawa: I know everything. (laughs)

Chef Katsuya Fukushima: I would take a bread class. I’m scared of bread making. I mean,  I can make bread, but it is not my comfort zone.

Daisuke Utagawa: Probably pastries-Western pastries.

PP: You are not supposed to talk while eating ramen. What is the first thing you say after eating a bowl of ramen?

KF: All Japanese say, Oishikatta, no?

DU: (laughs) Yes, assuming they liked it, but yes, all our customers say Oishikatta, which means that was really good. I don’t know if it’s a word, but customers utter (happy sigh) “Ahhhh.” After eating a bowl of noodles, people usually reach this euphoric place, but at the same time, they are in a food coma, so they don’t really say much, but you can still tell if they’ve enjoyed it. One of my very favorite chefs in the world, he makes this dish called tendon, which is tempura over rice, and the chef will tell you,” I know you like it.” You then say, “How do you know?” He says he can tell by the face. He told me that everybody makes this particular face when they have a first bite of something they like, something about the cheek dropping to a very sort of relaxed area, and the eyes losing focus. He’s watching people’s faces, so that’s how he knows.

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A look at some of the ingredients that go into Daikaya’s broth.

PP: You say that ramen isn’t about the toppings, but if you could only choose one ingredient to top your ramen, what would it be?

KF: Egg. One, because I love egg, and two, because I want to see how well the eggs are being made elsewhere.

DU: For my own satisfaction, it would be scallions-Japanese scallions-thick, white, scallions. For research purposes, menma, the bamboo, plus, I also like Bamboo.

KF: There is actually scallion ramen, like the whole top is covered with scallions and you can’t even see the ramen. It’s amazing.

PP: What dish(es) do you cook most often at home?

DU: My wife cooks at home. I don’t cook. (laughs)

KF: I cook a lot of cereal. A LOT of cereal. When I moved out of my last apartment, the manual that comes in the oven was still in there… I’ve been cooking a lot of Lean Cuisine lately too. I love TV Dinners.

Ramen Rey Lopez
Photo by Rey Lopez.

PP: Do you have any other classes planned for this restaurant or one of your upcoming restaurants?

DU: We will go through this class for a while, so the general public knows what ramen is about, but we will continue with classes. It is fun for us, and educated customers are the best kind of customers.

Note: For your opportunity to become the best kind of customer, follow Daikaya on Facebook for news on when the next round of classes will be held.

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