Chef's Table (2015–…): Season 3, Episode 4 - Ivan Orkin - full transcript

A chef tells his story about dealing with ramen in Tokyo and New York, full of emotions and life.

[Ivan Orkin] Nice chickens.

I can't believe these things
come in clean, man. You guys are lucky.

I used to clean
all those fucking things myself.

I'm a sort of "go fuck yourself"
kind of guy.

[chuckles] You know, like,
"Look, you know what? Go fuck yourself."

Works for me. Doesn't work for you?
You know what? Get out of the way.

Maybe I'm pigheaded.

Or I'm stupid.

But you have to be all in
to get into ramen.

It is hard-core.

Ramen isn't dainty.

It's salty and fatty,
and explosively flavorful.

It's full of umami.

It's high caloric, and it's messy.

So, you know, you're kind of like,
"Fuck it. I'm gonna eat ramen."

[opening theme playing]

[Ivan] We gotta pull those eggs.

[Peter Meehan] I think the perception
of ramen in America

starts with instant ramen,

and I think that is the beginning
and end of ramen for most people.

But ramen culture in Japan is deep.

Ramen has been really taken
into the Japanese culinary canon,

like tempura, like yakitori.

And I think that that's surprising
to Americans, that it can be something

that you obsess about every single aspect
of what's in the bowl.

[in Japanese] There are probably
80,000 ramen shops in Japan.

It's like bread for the French.

It's something we eat on a daily basis.

When an American is running a ramen shop,

we wonder,
"Can this person really make ramen?"

[Peter in English] Ivan Orkin, a white,
Jewish guy from New York,

making ramen in Tokyo.

He's not the most obvious character
to be the guy to... open a ramen shop.

It became one of the best places
to get ramen in all of Japan.

He's got the energy of,
like, a 15-year-old.

He's a talker.

But also, he's an incredibly serious cook.

You never get the feeling with Ivan

that he is half-assedly interested
in doing anything.

The complexity that Ivan gets
out of his chicken shio ramen is amazing.

Shio, which means flavored with salt
and not soy sauce.

So there's nothing to hide behind.

It's a real test of agility and precision
for a ramen cook.

But his bowls are inarguably delicious.

The layer of chicken fat
on top of that bowl of ramen

is the most delicious chicken fat
eating experience

I've ever had,
and I love chicken fat.

He took a country by storm

that does not get taken by storm
by outsiders.

Ivan became one of the ramen gods.

And I think that
that's an incredible achievement.

[indistinct chatter]

[Ivan] I've never pigeonholed myself.

I'm not a ramen chef,
whatever the fuck that is.

I'm a cook.

I make real food with real ingredients

that have been planned out
the way any chef in any restaurant,

in any kitchen would also plan his food.


It's just that my food
comes in a bowl with noodles in it.

Ramen is interesting
because it has so many layers to it.

And I like layering of flavors.

I love taking one ingredient,

and then breaking it out
into lots of different layers...

and then putting them all
back together again.

Ramen is just the perfect vehicle
in which to do that.

My ramen has a certain balance,
a certain harmony.

It's a little more refined.

I cook to my palate,
so when I make a chicken ramen,

there's chicken fat, and chicken soup,
and chicken shavings,

and when it comes together in your mouth,
you're like, "Oh, my God!"

And you really get chicken.

I make food that I wanna eat...

and I've never made any apologies.

[slurping] Mmm.

[Louise Orkin] Maybe you
should put your phone away.

[Ivan] All right,
[stammers] I'm Instagramming.

All right, I'll do this later.

That's a good idea.

Put your napkin on your lap.

What're you getting?
You having breakfast or lunch?

Uh, um... I don't know.

-They make a nice pastrami and eggs.
-Oh, I don't want that.

-I don't like that.

[chuckles] It's delicious.

[waitress] Here you go.
[Ivan] Great!

-Lovely. Nice.
-[waitress] Your bagel.

[Louise] Thank you very much.

[waitress] Extra mayo. Okay?
[Ivan] Thank you. Yup.

[waitress] Enjoy.
[Ivan and Louise] Thank you.

[Ivan] I grew up in an upper-middle-class
Jewish area of Long Island.

My father
was an incredibly successful lawyer.

My mom's an artist.

And I was certainly sort of the...
the family fuck-up.

I was a person who just didn't do things
the way they were expected of me.

[Louise] Ivan was very difficult.

He was a nice person, but... [chuckles]

he was just so hard to live with.

He was so wild.
He had difficulty in school.

He had difficulty with friends.

[Ivan] I wasn't stupid...

but I don't think anybody expected
anything from me.

When you grow up and you're the fuck-up
in a family of high-achievers,

it's... it's...
it can be kind of deafening.

[Louise] We were really consumed
with just getting through each day.

But he always was interested in food.

[Ivan] I have a really, really,
really sensitive palate.

Even when I was younger,
whenever I ate something terrible,

it never made sense to me.

I grew up with Swanson's dinner,

which, I'll tell you,
I wholly rejected at the age of 13.

What is a thing where half of it's frozen,
and half of it's, like, burnt?

I... I hated...
Oh, my God!

Why would you eat this shit?

So, when I was 15,

I got a job
at the new Japanese restaurant, Tsubo.

My first day, I rode my bike
from high school right to the restaurant

to wash dishes,

and when I got there...

I said to the Japanese cook,

"I'm just so hungry."

And, you know, he took a bowl,

and he put
some steaming white rice into it,

and then he takes a little steel bowl,
and he whisks up a raw egg,

and he pours a little soy sauce
into it, and he whisks it up,

and he pours it over the rice,
and he sprinkles it with some aonori,

which is, you know, the powdered,
bright green, you know, seaweed flakes.

And he just sort of said, "Here."

And I was just like, "Okay..."

Like, you just gave me white rice
with a raw egg on top of it.

It was a little bit gooey
and a little bit like,

"Ooh, this is, like, kind of weird,

But I was also like, "Ooh, ocean flavor."

I was like,
"Ooh! You know, chicken flavor."

And I was like, you know, "I like...

Oh, uh, this is...
this is actually really good!"

I think it was the first time
I ever really tasted umami.

They were very nice to me.

They never yelled at me.
They didn't treat me like I was stupid.

And I was like,
"Nice people, delicious food,

language that sounds intriguing,

but I don't understand
what they're saying."

I fell in love with this different world.

[indistinct chatter]

[bell tolls]

[chef 1 in Japanese]
Special with three eggs.

Three eggs, okay.

Thank you for waiting.
Karashi miso ramen.

Wow! Wow!

[Ivan] In college...


...I studied Japanese.


That's fucking beautiful.

So when I graduated,

I thought, "Well, what makes sense
is to go live in Japan."

As the tires of the plane hit the tarmac,

I had this overwhelming emotion
of coming home.

And I was just...
Almost in tears.

It was so different... and magical.

It was very intense.

But I didn't speak that well,

and it's hard to, like, get in.

I couldn't quite figure it out.

It was really confounding.

But then, one day, I met Tami.

She was very beautiful.

She was really strong...

and we absolutely fell in love.

She opened up this different world to me.

And she showed me what I was missing.

We ate everything.

Izakaya, sushi...

and of course, ramen.

I loved it.


I remember that, every once in a while,
we would eat somewhere really good

and then, like, later on in the day,

we would sort of look at each other,
lock eyes and smile.

We were so happy together.

And then, in 1990,

Tami got a job in the United States.

I didn't really have an inkling
as to what I was doing with my life...

and so, I followed her back home.

And when I left Japan...

I sort of vowed that I would come back.

It was sort of like, you know,
"You haven't seen the last of Ivan Orkin."

[speaks Japanese]

[machine whirring]


One of the things that, in a way,
is sort of a good and bad thing

about Japanese cuisine in general
is it's incredibly rigid.

There's really one way,
and one way only.

A good tempura shop,
maybe the guy varies how much water

he adds into his flour,
or how many eggs.

-[chef speaks Japanese]
-[speaks Japanese]

[Ivan in English] There is not
that much latitude to wing it.

Same thing with sushi.

But what I like about ramen is,
it is so freewheeling.

There are no rules.
There's no rule book.

[in Japanese]
Ramen has only been in Japan 100 years.

It's a very new food in Japanese history.

[Peter in English] Ramen was lo mein.

That's where the word ramen comes from.

Lo mein is a wheat noodle from China.

Lo mein eventually became ramen.

It was called shina soba,

which is like Chinese soba

for a long time before that was
kind of thought to be racist

and left by the side of the road.

And as it was taken
into the Japanese cooking tradition,

it was refined, and added to,
and personalized.

[Hiroshi in Japanese] There's shoyu, shio,
miso, or tonkotsu flavors,

thick noodles, thin noodles.

This freedom is unique to ramen.

A chef's experience is very important.

[Ivan in English] There's 1,000 different
little techniques that ramen shops use.

Everybody keeps
a little bit of a mystery

about how they make
some part of their ramen.

I chose to make ramen because I
could do whatever the fuck I want.

Ramen is the maverick cuisine of Japan.


I was living with Tami.

I didn't have any specific job
I wanted to do.

I really hadn't fully found my way.


So I was working
for her computer chip sales business.

I don't think I ever sold one,

and I don't think
I ever figured out how to sell one,

and I never understood what they were.

[Louise] He was really struggling,
so one day my husband said,

"You know, you don't know
a computer chip from a potato chip."


"So I think you better think about doing
something else with your life."

And he said,
"Ivan, get a hold of yourself, man.

You know, you're a grown...
You're a grown-up now.

You need to decide
what you want to do with your life."

"All you do is talk about food.
All you seem to be excited about is food.

Maybe you should go to cooking school
and get into the cooking business."

And I said, "That's a great idea."

So I went to culinary school...

and I hated it.

I don't like school.

[laughs] Just what it comes down to.
I don't like school.

But I loved cooking...

and I was, like, really good at it.

And when I graduated,
I got a job at Mesa Grill with Bobby Flay.

At the time, Mesa Grill
was one of the most creative,

most interesting restaurants
in America.

The first time I worked a Saturday night,

and the next day, Bobby said,

"Ivan, how do you think
things went for you last night?"

I said, [stammers] "You know what?
I think that, you know, they...

All in all, I think it went pretty well."

And he goes... he goes,
"You got killed!" [laughs]

I was like, "Yeah, yeah.
[stammers] I got killed."

Becoming a cook
was the beginning of my growth.

It was the first time in my life
where, I think,

discipline became
like a necessary component of living.

I'd never had to suck it up before.
And all of a sudden,

you know, you had to suck it up,
and I liked it, and I bought into it.

It's where I started
to at least get on a path to success.

As a trained cook, I really like control.

So when I got into the ramen game,

I understood how I wanted
to make the soup,

but I also had a real idea
about how I wanted to make the noodles.

So I decided,
I'm gonna be a noodle maker...

which, while not unheard of in Japan,
is not very common.

One day, I just ordered
like 20 different samples of flour,

and I just started making
lots and lots of noodles.

Your standard ramen used only one flour,

so I started using two or three flours.

I used a lot of water in my noodles,

and I think adding more water gives it
more of a bite and more of a chew.

And I started toasting flour...

and then blended it,

so that you would get this really nice,
toasty flavor pop when you bit into it.

[in Japanese]
Ramen shops can be divided

into the artisan type
and the commercial type.

The commercial types
are by far the most common.

They just assemble ready-made ingredients
and serve it.

The artisan types
create their own unique recipes by hand

and serve it themselves.

But even Japanese ramen artisans

have a difficult time
making ramen noodles.

Usually, they just make the soup.

[Peter in English] The most distinguishing
characteristic I know about Ivan's noodles

is the way that he adds
rye flour to the mix,

because that's not something that you
would ever do in Japanese cooking.

But I think it's Ivan taking
his Jewish chicken-noodle-soup heritage

and applying that to the noodles.

They're still bouncy, and springy,
and they slurp well,

and they've got good mouth feel,
but by adding rye flour to the mix,

he adds a little dimension of flavor
that makes the noodles his.

[Ivan] Tami and I got married
towards the end of my Mesa Grill time.

And then I got a job at Lutèce.

André Soltner, the chef,
was just larger than life.

He was always just shiny white
with his neckerchief,

and his tall hat,
and he could command a room.

It was such a fascinating place to be.

But then Tami got pregnant with Isaac...

and the pay was so low...

You know, take home $225 a week.

And I was like,
"Ugh, I mean, I can't live on that."

I sort of fantasized about opening
a restaurant of my own...

but I think that I was scared
of how hard it sounded.

And at that time,
Restaurant Associates was seeking out

restaurant cooks and chefs
to run their cafeterias and cafes.

It wasn't glamorous or exciting,
but it was safe.

It was sort of the path I ended up taking.

But then,
when Isaac was two and a half...

my wife was pregnant
with our second child...

and then Tami came home from a trade show,

with a... with a cold,
and she didn't feel well,

and she got sick on a Tuesday,
and by Friday night she was in a coma,

and she died on...
on a Saturday.

And she had, what we know much later,
toxic shock.

And, uh... and all of a sudden,
I found myself sort of, you know,

with a two year old and, you know,

a really very different life.

I remember coming home from the hospital

and, you know,
sort of falling asleep with Isaac,

crying and just thinking about, like,
what my life was gonna become.

I can't... To this day,
so many years later,

I am still heartsick.

It was so...
It was so sad,

but we're a good close family,
and we were right there.

We lived a block and a half
or two blocks away,

so we were able to help him with Isaac,

and we were able to see him a lot.

[Ivan] For the first couple of months,
I mean, I was really out of it.

I would sit with my whole family,
and we would all be talking,

and all of a sudden,
I would just sort of fall asleep.

I was just overwhelmed with emotion.

There's all those pat expressions.
You know,

"Oh, you know,
everything's gonna be okay," or,

"You'll soldier through," or,
"Hey, be strong," or whatever, and...

But, you know, sometimes someone
telling you to be strong...

It's like, "Go fuck yourself, man.
I don't feel fucking strong."

[stammers] I mean...
I'm just, like, holding on.

My identity was me and Isaac.
That was my identity.

Me and my guy.
It was, sort of, us against the world.

He would cry for his mother,

and she wasn't there,
and so we would both cry.

[chuckles] You know,
until we stopped crying.

That was my life.

[indistinct chatter]

All right, spicy.


All right, ribs to go.

[Peter] Umami is a flavor
that's been understood

and sought out in Japanese cooking
for a long time.

Most of the great savory foods
of the world are full of it.


And satiation.

Feeling like you've gotten your fill
is what umami delivers.

And seeking out umami

is something that, like,
every step of ramen making is about.

The easiest way to add umami to a dish
is to add the powdered white MSG.

But there's a lack of refinement
in that approach.

So if you're a chef, like Ivan,

then you're gonna work
to make your own umami.

You're gonna add
a lot of meat to your broths.

You might make your own dashi.

There might be
a bunch of mushrooms, dried fish...

And all of these things add umami
to a bowl of ramen.

[Ivan] Umami is
like a necessary component of living.

You crave it.

It's almost emotional.

I couldn't imagine living without it.

When my wife died,

I lost a wife, I lost a partner, and I
also lost my connection with Japan...

which was very difficult for me.

And I wanted Isaac to have
a relationship with his Japanese family.

So I decided I needed to go back to Japan
at least once a year.

And so, on one of those trips, I met Mari.

We had a mutual friend who introduced us.

She had a kid from a former relationship,

so we went to a beautiful park
in Kichijoji, in, uh, Western Tokyo.


[in Japanese] Ivan, at that time,
had a shaved head,

and he always had his T-shirt
tucked into his shorts,

and he always carried a backpack.

His son had the same haircut,
and they both had the same glasses.

It was totally unique.
A type of person I'd never seen before.



[Ivan in English] And her son, Alex,

absolutely fell in love with Isaac,
my son.

From the minute they met,

Alex was so in love with Isaac.

[Mari in Japanese]
When we were together, as families,

Ivan with his son, and me with mine,

it was like we felt at ease, maybe?

It was a strange sensation.

He wasn't really my type.

[Mari chuckles]

But it didn't matter.

[Isaac and Mari chuckling]

I might die laughing.

-Keep going. You can do it.
-[Alex shouting]

[Ivan in English] We played around,
and then we got hungry,

and we went and had a bowl of ramen

at this super stinky
garlic tonkotsu restaurant.

And I just felt this spark.

So that whole week,
I ended up staying with her.


[in Japanese]
It was like an incredible encounter.

[in English] And then I went home,

and I couldn't stop thinking about Mari.

And I was like, "Ah, that sucks.

I've been fucking miserable
for four years,

now I've met someone
I think is kind of amazing.

The only little caveat is she lives
in Tokyo and I live in New York.

But fuck that."

So a week or two later,

I said to my boss, I was like,
[stammers] I said, "I'm sorry.

I have some unfinished business in Tokyo.
I gotta go."

I flew in.

I went straight from the airport
to her house. I met her folks.

And then like a month later,
she came to New York to visit.

And it was, like, the last few days,
and she was like,

"Are you serious?
Are we, like, doing this,

or am I going back?" I was like,
"No, no, no, no. Let's get married."

We met on, like, May 21st,

and we got married August 10th.

And it was just... just like that.

[machine whirring]

[indistinct chatter]

[Ivan in Japanese] Did you add anything?
[Mari] I added soup stock only.


-[Mari] No good?
-Don't we need to add anything else?

-It's tasty.
-Isn't it tasty?

[Mari] Yeah, but maybe we
should add more sugar.

Boiled food is tastier
if you put in a lot of seasonings.

It's good.


-[in English] Really?

So, 2003, Alex, and Isaac, and Mari and I,
we were living in Brooklyn.

[speaks Japanese]

[in Japanese] That's it.

[Ivan in English]
It was our first year of marriage.

Mari was waiting to get a green card,

and when you apply for a green card,
you're not allowed to leave the country

for a certain amount of time
until they process it.

Mari had had this
very dynamic career in Japan.

She was a very sought-after stylist.

She put it on hold when she came
to marry me and move to New York.

What do you wanna put in it?

I was in my seventh year
at Restaurant Associates.

I didn't really like it anymore.

So after six months, when she finally
got permission to leave the country...

we grabbed that opportunity,
and we went to Tokyo for two weeks.

And one day I took the kids
to Kunitachi in Western Tokyo.

It's really famous
'cause there's this one long boulevard

with cherry blossom trees.

It was right at cherry blossom time.

They almost defy gravity.
They seem to be floating.

I would imagine that anybody
would be swept away by that,

and I was swept away by that.

I could barely catch my breath.

Cherry blossom time in Japan
is a very important time.

Culturally, there's this whole idea of,
you know, the fleetingness of life.

The cherry blossoms,
no sooner do they open and look beautiful

than they blow off.

Sitting there,
looking at these cherry blossoms,

I said, "This is it.

This is where I need to be."

I'm 40 years old,
I've had enough of Brooklyn,

I hate my fucking job,
and I just miss Japan so badly.

And so I went back to meet Mari...

and I was like, "Let's move back to Japan.
I want to live in Japan again."

And she was like, "Are you sure?"

I said, "This is it.
It's now or never."

And so, that was it.
We packed up and left.

[indistinct chatter]

When we moved back to Japan...

I didn't think,
"I'll open a restaurant."

House husband. That was it, man.
I was gonna be a house husband.

I was cooking, and cleaning...

and taking care of the kids.

I thought that would be enough.

But I had no plan.

I was sort of stuck.

[in Japanese]
Thank you so much.

I could see he wasn't happy.

He didn't have direction.

He needed a change in his life.

[in English] My wife had this great job.

She would do commercial shoots,

and I would drive her to those places.

And that's where
a lot of the ramen eating started.

-[In Japanese] Sorry to keep you waiting.

[in English] We just started eating
in all these places, and the more we ate,

the more I was getting
sort of obsessed with it.

[in Japanese] Now, for a limited time,
scraggly and uneven noodles.

[both laugh]

Don't make me laugh.

[Ivan in English]
And then one day she was like,

"Why don't you have a ramen shop?"
And I was like, "I can't do that.

I don't know how to make ramen."
And she's like, "What do you mean?

You make great food. You'll just...
you'll just figure it out. It's okay."

The idea of having my own restaurant
was something that seemed impossible.

I didn't believe in myself.


[in Japanese]
I believed in him.

[Ivan in English]
Mari was the first person

who saw my potential as limitless.

Whereas, up until that time,
most people saw me as limited.

Mari was the first person to say...

"I think you're gonna be
really successful."

And I'd be like, "Doing what?"

And she'd be like,
"I don't know, something.

You're gonna do something great."
And I was like, "Wow."

And that was the first time
someone had ever said that to me.

That was really huge.

It inspired me.

So when she said that, I was like,
"I can try to figure this out."

But I didn't have anybody
to learn from.

I just could eat ramen,

and then do things myself.

And that's kind of how I learned.

And because
there was no guidelines,

I could just sort of wing it.

I decided to make
my own noodles from scratch.

I started looking for ingredients...

and experimenting with different soups.

Mari would taste it,
and she would say,

"Yeah. It's close, but why don't you
go back and make it again?"

She kept pushing
and cajoling me to get the right recipe.

I wanted to do something special.

Something with real impact.

Something that nobody had done before.

So I tried different toppings,
thinking lots about umami.

Then I stumbled upon roasted tomato.
It's basically an umami bomb.

And when I tasted it,

I was like, "Wow!"
I was like, "That's it."

I'd spent like 20 years
sort of getting up to this moment.

Learning Japanese.

Becoming a cook.

Needing to be disciplined.

The death of my first wife, which kind of
broke me down to my absolute core.

Realizing that, you know,
I need to rethink everything.

All these things set the stage for me

to be at a place
where I could figure it all out.

Mari and I found a ten-seat restaurant
in, like, a totally Japanese neighborhood.

People said to me,
"Aren't you gonna open in Roppongi?"

And I was like, "No."
And they were like, "Well, why not?

You know,
there's all these foreigners around."

And I was like, "Yeah,
but I don't want foreign customers."

I wanted my fantasy of speaking Japanese
all day without an English break.

And trying to win people over,

living within the confines
of Japanese customs,

and trying to sort of live a life...

in a Japanese way, in an honest way,
and get to fully experience Japan.

So finally, I was ready
to open this ramen shop.

The hardest thing
about having a restaurant

is convincing someone
to open the door and sit down.

And so, when I opened Ivan Ramen,
I was like, "You know what? I got this.

I know the hook.
I'm not stupid.

I'm a fucking white Jewish dude
in the middle of Tokyo."

But I also knew most people would be
coming through the door gunning for me.

Saying I was gonna suck.

How could an American guy
make good ramen?

And you only get one shot
to convince them to come back.

No restaurants succeed on one-timers.
You fail.

I couldn't fuck up.

Opening day, I was so nervous.

I'm shvitzing like crazy.

I didn't really know what I was doing,

and I would shake the noodle baskets,
and the noodles would fall on the floor.

And then, Osaki-san came in.

He had a pretty big magazine
about ramen.

I was like, "Fuck."

I said, "Fuck, man. Come on.

My first day?
Give me a chance."

[Hiroshi in Japanese]
I, Hiroshi Osaki,

am the man who has eaten
the most ramen in all Japan.

I'm 58.

I've had 23,000 bowls of ramen in my life.

For me, ramen is everything.

I was interested in seeing how good

the ramen from a foreign chef could be.

When I was on the train
on the way to Ivan Ramen,

my expectations, honestly,
weren't that high.

I hoped it was above average.
That was the level of my expectations.

[Ivan in English]
You know, I made him the ramen.

He crushes the bowl, right?

He just sort of stands up,
and he says to me in Japanese,

"Hey, so do you, you know,
do you make the noodles here?

How do you make them?"
[stammers] And I was, like...

"Huh? Huh? Huh?"
And he was like, "Oh, I guess...

I guess this guy
doesn't really speak Japanese."

And he just turned
and walked out the door.

I was really bummed out

because, I mean, I sort of, like,
I'm like, "I speak Japanese, you dick.

[chuckling] Give me a second here."


[Hiroshi in Japanese]
After eating there, I thought

it's amazing and delicious.

Ivan's roasted tomato was an idea
that no one from Japan ever thought of.

It was a little bit western,
but it was still ramen.

It was surprising and revolutionary.

[in English] I got the nod from Osaki-san,

which sort of put me on the map
as far as people knowing I existed.

More and more people started coming.

[in Japanese] Freeze!
I am the Local News Detective.

[in English] Welcome!

By the end of that year,

I was rated the number one
rookie of the year for my shio ramen.

But... my big break was,

I got invited to go on

the biggest New Year's day TV show.

[woman speaking Japanese]

[Ivan in English] Millions, and millions
and millions of people saw this.

And the next day...

when I slid back the door
and I stuck my head out,

there was like 30 or 40 people lined up,

and I was like, "What the fuck?"

[in Japanese] Ivan's ramen
even became an instant ramen product.

[in English] Ivan was canonized.

He was accepted and elevated
to a pantheon of ramen chefs,

and it's very rarifying
when you understand how many

ramen shops and ramen chefs
there are in Japan.

[Ivan] At some point I looked up,

and I was like,
"Wow, I've kind of done it."

Like, in my own little space,
and I'm cooking all day long,

and I'm doing everything in Japanese.

It's great.

But I think being forced
to kind of readjust and reinvent,

that's when life's really exciting.

[smacks lips and sighs]

[sniffles] Whoo.

All right, here. I'll give you
enough sake to do a, uh, a l'chaim.

[Louise] All right.
Now, what should I do with this?

[Ren Orkin speaking Japanese]

[Ivan in English]
After ten years in Japan, I realized that,

you know, I really missed New York
and my family.

My dad was getting older,

and Mari and I,
we had a son together, Ren.

And I really wanted him
to know my father.

-[Louise] Could you read us--
-[tablet chimes]

-Hi, Ren!
-[Ren] Hi, Isaac.

[Ivan] And Isaac decided to go to college
in the United States.

[Ivan laughing]

So, 2012,
I closed my shops in Japan,

and I came to New York with this notion
of starting from scratch again.

I wanted to be able to make new dishes.

Rework some recipes,
especially for New York.


The same way I didn't try to make
a western restaurant in Tokyo,

I didn't want to make
a Japanese restaurant in New York.

[Louise] I...
I'm just proud of his ambition.

It's truly a miraculous story.

He went from darkness to light.

[Mari in Japanese] He takes risks.

He's now very confident.

He's a completely different person.

[in English] The greatest success
I've had is that I've...

I've managed to achieve
fully living in Japan.

I have that, and it's mine,
and nobody can take it away from me.

I got to do that. I'm already,
like, onto, like, other things.

Even if someone says,
"Well, you know, your ramen sucks.

And I know 'cause I've been to Japan."

I'm gonna be like,
"Go fuck yourself, man.

You go live in Japan for 20 years,
and then we'll have a chat."