Last night, Eater Young Gun and Ramen Tatsu-Ya director of operations Shion Aikawa got to experiment with what he says may be the next stage in his career in the culinary industry: organizing pop-up dinners and supper clubs.
Aikawa joined fellow Young Guns nominees Jessica Rupert of Qui and Barley Swine's Sam Hellman-Mass for a celebratory dinner at the Swoop House, calling it "kind of a test" for the DinnerLab-esque meals he has in mind.
"It's in part, grabbing a few chefs to do dinners," explains Aikawa, "but at the same time, doing it in landscapes that are more historic than some other places in Austin."
Where do you see your career going over the next five or ten years?
Hopefully we'll have more than one ramen shop. Hopefully I can keep up with the growth of the ramen shop, definitely. And also on the side, have you heard of Dinner Lab? I want to do one that's more Austin-centric. It's in part, grabbing a few chefs to do dinners, but at the same time, doing it in landscapes that are more historic than some other places in Austin. That haven't been discovered by the general public. More like a cultural learning experience, plus being able to meld that into the restaurant scene here. I'm still working on a format, and the Swoop House is kind of going to be the test. But I want to keep doing that. It's also for my own learning, just to explore the town more.
Did you know Sam and Jessica before you were all nominated for Young Guns?
I knew Jessica from going to Shangri-La and Liberty, drinking a lot. And for Sam, I think I've only met him once. We shook hands probably once before. But cooks are very excitable creatures, I think. I think we're like children, in a way. It's like, "Hey do you like food? I like food. Let's make food! Let's be friends!" It's really easy to strike up a conversation if you know basic things about kitchen etiquette. It's fun.
I'm doing one dish, and also the background of things. Front of house. How we're going to be moving our plates and how we're going to be moving our guests. Basic logistics.
So this is practice a practice run for you?
I want to do a pop-up shop on the side. I like the facilitating part of it. I think it's really fun, and I think it's a great opportunity for young chefs. Like a showcase, like the Eater Awards or the Young Guns thing. I think it's really awesome that you guys are doing that.
And maybe to test people, to see if they can make a name for themselves. And also because this is a car culture. I mean, there's light rail and buses but ? it's not up to my standards. I remember riding around on my bicycle in San Francsico and you get to look at things. Really look at the landscapes of places and the parks and explore. It's something that's missing here, in Austin. I want to force people to look at things.
Shion Aikawa, Jessica Rupert and Sam Hellman-Mass plating and cooking at last night's Young Guns dinner. [Photo: Paula Forbes/EATX]