We had the good fortune of connecting with Ernie Watkins and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ernie, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I have always dreamed of owning my own restaurant. Even before becoming a chef it was a dream of mine growing up. I would cook for family and friends but never worked in a restaurant before. After working as a sushi chef I wanted to keep getting better and worked many years and gained knowledge about business and operating a restaurant. I used my skills as a chef and started posting pictures of my food and started an Instagram food blog called Konfucious Eats. First posting about food I made as well as exploring places to try. After going to Japan I started to teach sushi classes and started to make home made ramen. Using instagram as an advertising tool I started ramen pop ups around town. Then covid hit. The week California was shut down was the same week I was doing another ramen pop up and had to cancel. So my thought process of starting my own business started right there. It was out of necessity and for survival since I only worked half the amount at the sushi restaurant. I started making ramen kits. A full bowl of ramen to enjoy made fresh in your home made by you. Hand made noodles and broth from scratch and all the toppings for a complete bowl of ramen. It very quickly took off. At one point selling out over 100 ramen kits in just an hour! Then I got let go of the sushi restaurant and went into making ramen kits full time. While doing ramen kits I was doing them out of a friend’s restaurant and he approached me about taking over his first spot in the center of town. So during the craziest year ever I decided to take a dive and open my own restaurant! There wasn’t really a though process until it became a reality and had to really plan for the business. Life can be unexpected, crazy, happy, sad and sometimes angry. But everything happens for a reason and sometimes we have to take that chance and take that dive.
What should our readers know about your business?
We will be the first ramen shop in town. You have to drive about an hour to find a ramen shop and other Asian restaurants. We want to bring something different in the area. And all the great food in Japan as well as some of the great influences in my Korean family will be the highlight of our menu. Aside from ramen we will be bringing all the great food I had in Japan. Like sandos and onigiri, as well as my Mom’s famous kimchi. I want everyone to experience how I feel when I eat something that takes me to another world. Lets me forget my stress and worries and be in the moment.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Downtown – many shops like my friends at Food Fix and Downtown Bauer’s as well as Camp 4 Wine Bar. After having dinner we would walk our way to Cheroots, an indoor cigar lounge where I occasionally have a scotch and cigar. My Restaurant’s Kitchen – While I am opening my restaurant I want to have an open kitchen concept. If anyone wants to just come hang out have some fun and learn something new they are more than welcome to come to the kitchen to check things out and who knows, maybe get their hands dirty! It will also be the “studio” for our Youtube channel concept coming soon! I will be inviting local chefs, and some people in the ramen community to join me on a cooking channel on Youtube!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Hank Olsen and Ashley Olsen – Owners of Food Fix Butcher and Baker as well as the Food Fix Truck in Modesto California. One of the most talented chefs and bakers with not only one of the best restaurants in town but its one of my favorite places ever. They has become such a great friends and are real genuine people. We all have to come together and support Mom and Pop shops like this! It depends on us to survive!