CHEF & OWNER
Nicole Rucker is a chef and author from Los Angeles. Formerly the pastry chef of the Gjelina Group (including G.T.A. and Gjusta), Rucker is known internationally for her rustic desserts and has won several awards for her homespun pies. In 2012, she won blue ribbons in the National Pie Championship, KCRW Good Food Pie contest and a Star Chef award for baking. She is currently chef and co-owner of Rucker’s Pie and Cofax Coffee and is also finishing her first cookbook Dappled, which will be released in July of this year.
The First Venture
After saving his wages from the Nagano apprenticeship, Chef Sakamoto took out a loan and opened Chotto Kai, his first restaurant in Tokyo. Using simple, seasonal ingredients, he was able to bring the luxury of kaiseki to all. Because he incorporated some of the Hong Kong flavors his mother had inspired in him, Chotto Kai was both a huge success and a unique contribution to Tokyo’s culinary landscape.
During his eighth year at Chotto Kai, he befriended ramen shop owner Rei Fukui. Chef Sakamoto had stopped by her front stall for a quick dinner and fell instantly in love with her take on the springy yet soft noodle. Every ingredient was meticulously prepared, just like each kaiseki course.
A New Challenge
Chef Sakamoto implored chef Fukui to share her methods. She said that she would only teach him the basics if he promised to bring the art of ramen abroad. He brought the proposition to his family, and his mother immediately urged him to go to Hong Kong.
The next week, Chef Sakamoto flew to the “Pearl City” and discovered that he felt more at home than ever. He knew that he could meld the umami flavors and smoky scents of Cantonese cuisine with the richness and nuances of ramen. He went back to Tokyo to learn from Chef Fukui, and with her blessing, returned to Hong Kong seven years later.