When we think of Michelin-starred restaurants, we probably think of clean, white tablecloths, fancy meals, and a dining experience like no other. So what if we told you that the most surprising Michelin restaurant is an old used-car dealership? Good things really do come in all shapes and sizes.
Creating the restaurant
Katsumi Yoshida worked as a mechanic and car salesman for many years before he added a small kitchen to his used-car dealership. The tables filled the waiting room as Katsumi wanted to try his hand at another passion that has always filled his life: ramen. Little did he know that people would soon travel from far and wide to get their hands on a bowl of Katsumi’s ramen.
Becoming a hit
Hot Air Ramen officially opened its doors in 2015 as Katsumi’s dream that was supposed to run on the side suddenly became the main focus of his life. In fact, so many people fell for his noodles that Michelin Guides soon learned about the restaurant. They were so impressed with Katsumi’s ramen that they featured Hot Air Ramen in the Kyoto – Osaka and Tottori 2019 guide.
Learning the skills
So how did Katsumo go from selling cars to cooking ramen for a living? It all started when he was a young boy. Apparently, he would often eat out with his grandmother and noticed that food always tasted differently at each restaurant. Katsumi then decided to watch cooking shows and imitated the techniques he saw as he learned how to make his own flavors come to life.
The push to success
There was another reason that ramen became an important part of Katsumi’s life. He wanted to find the fifth taste of food: umami. Katsumi hoped that if he created the perfect ramen recipe, then he could produce better festival food for the children. Festivals are held throughout the year in Japan, but Katsumi wasn’t always impressed with the meals on offer.
Every ingredient matters
Many chefs create their own recipes and follow them for the rest of their lives. However, Katsumi says that every ingredient matters in meals and that each should be considered before it’s added. Now, Katsumi uses his instinct when deciding whether to add something to a dish rather than adding it just because the recipe wants you to. To top it off, Katsumi also pays close attention to the temperature of his food to make sure that nothing is overcooked.
Switching the dream
Things continued to take off for Katsumi as more and more people wanted to try his ramen. Now, he only works on cars for his friends and family as he focuses the rest of his time on his noodle business. Katsumi runs the restaurant six days a week, where he serves anywhere from 70 to 100 bowls of ramen a day.
If you’re in the area, then you might want to walk into one of the best – and most surprising – Michelin restaurants in the world. It’s not every day we get to see a used-car dealer become a legendary chef.