In anticipation of the 2015 Eater Awards next week, here’s a look back at all the different interviews with this year’s Chef of the Year nominees. There’s Tatsu Aikawa and Takuya Matsumoto from Ramen Tatsu-Ya, Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue, Michael Fojtasek and Grae Nonas from Olamaie, Rene Ortiz of Launderette and Fresa’s Al Carbon, and Paul Qui of Qui and East Side King. Read on for their takes on Austin dining and experiences. Find out who wins on Monday, November 16.
Tatsu Aikawa and Takuya Matsumoto, Ramen Tatsu-Ya
On why they decided to open the restaurant, September 2012
Matsumoto: We wanted to be the first. The first real ramen shop.
On adjusting the ramen, October 2010
Aikawa: We taste everything every day. We're really particular on certain flavors. We talk about how the soup tasted today, we adjust if something's off.
On the Ramen Tatsu-Ya philosophy, October 2010
Aikawa: We try to keep it simple. No reservations, no take-out. I don't want you to eat my ramen when it's not hot and has soggy fucking noodles. I'm a fucking soup nazi. I want you to eat it at the perfect time.
Aaron Franklin, Franklin Barbecue
On one of the worst things that happened at the trailer, September, 2011
I burned up an entire batch of brisket — around 10-12 briskets — over when we were still at the trailer. We ended up just giving away free food all day.
On meeting President Barack Obama, July, 2014
He knew we'd started out as a trailer, and asked how long we'd been open and how we financed the restaurant [...] He held [Franklin's daughter] Vivian for a few minutes and she didn't cry, so that was awesome. He seems like a normal dude who just happens to have a slightly more important job than most of us. He was really considerate of people in line.
On being a detail-oriented pitmaster, March, 2014
It's essential for doing anything well. If you slack off, it's going to show. If you spend a bunch of money on piece of meat or wood or if you stay up all night cooking something, don't you want it to be as good as you can possibly make it? You go to a crappy restaurant, it may have great food but service may be bad or beer may be warm. The bathroom floor maybe dirty, that's no good. It's all about the details.
Michael Fojtasek and Grae Nonas, Olamaie
On working together so closely, September 2015
Nonas: We can communicate without talking. It’s very cohesive, we have synergy. The way I look at him is more of a brother than just a partner in business.
On their specific version of Southern food, July 2013
Fojtasek: Years ago, I researched this idea using a lot of great vintage Southern cookbooks. If you go back to the pre-war era, Southern food is more reflective of a Mediterranean style of eating. It's about what is fresh and around you.
On what Southern food in Texas means, September 2015
Nonas: As far as the seasons, you have to rethink and retrain yourself to understand this is what hot as hell summer is, this is what spring is, and this is what our late winter is. You have to understand that and change.
Rene Ortiz, Launderette, Fresa’s Chicken Al Carbon
On developing menus, October 2013
It's all about the farm." [The main goal is] celebrating what people have grown and not fucking it up.
On urban farms, October 2013
As we grow our business, they grow their business, so they can continue to grow the freshest possible food you could ever get.
On cooking for events, October 2013
You're competing with nothing. We're not trying to prove we're better than another restaurant. The gloves are off.
Paul Qui, Qui, East Side King
On why he wanted to set out on his own, August 2012
[...] Even before Top Chef, I realized I needed to go out there and do my own thing. While I was on the show, it gave me a ton of time to think about what I wanted to do. That's what I was thinking about the most.
On being a well-known chef, August 2012
I love making food, but I also love working with people and mentoring and cultivating relationships. That's why I love working in kitchens.
On Qui’s constant evolution, July 2014
It definitely scares people off. I'm willing to roll the dice and see where we're headed. I'm looking at the restaurant not like, ‘How much money can I make in the first two years while it's hot?’ but ‘How can I create a foundation for something more epic?’ A lot of the big restaurants I admire are institutions that continue to evolve, and that's what I'd like this place to eventually be.