Bamen Ramen opens in Forest Grove
After several months of anticipation, Forest Grove's newest food trailer, Bamen Ramen, started serving up bowls this month, making it the only spot in the area with an exclusive focus on traditional Japanese ramen.
"We just opened up last week, and we've been swamped ever since," said Bamen Ramen's owner, Jason Jewett, last week.
With a work portfolio including former jobs at Intel and Fujitsu as an engineer, Jewett might appear as an unlikely candidate to become a traditional ramen chef.
"I spent a lot of time in Japan, since 1994," said Jewett, whose work often required him to travel to Japan. "That's when I really fell in love with ramen."
In the early years of his ramen fervor, Jewett recalled, "I was about an hour away from a ramen school in Kobe, Japan, and I told my wife, 'I want to go to this ramen school.'"
At the time, however, Jewett and his wife were busy with their family and work, so they put the idea on the backburner. In the years following, when Jewett had time, he would experiment in the kitchen with different ramen recipes while educating himself on different methods.
Last November, however, Jewett left the startup he had been working with to spend more time at home with his kids.
"I was going to be Mr. Mom for a few months, because I had been traveling 30 to 40 percent of my life," Jewett said.
With his newfound time as a stay-at-home dad, Jewett said to himself, "Hey, I want to go explore my dream again — which is ramen."
Earlier this year, Jewett finally followed up on his desire to go to ramen school. He traveled to Singapore to attend Yamato Ramen School and learn the tools of the trade.
While abroad, Jewett learned from professional ramen chefs who taught the class about all the components of ramen, including how to make noodles, develop a base sauce and broth, and come up with the right toppings to match the protein and flavor profile.
"It was very intensive," Jewett said.
The school was where Ivan Orkin, a now-famous ramen chef from New York, learned the foundational skills that would later earn his restaurant the title of No. 1 ramen restaurant in Tokyo.
"He's definitely someone I look up to in the ramen industry in America," Jewett said.
While in Singapore, Jewett developed and fine-tuned his own recipe to bring back with him to Forest Grove.
"Yamato is all about consistency, and my background — being in engineering and physics — is very much about no variation and keeping things the same," Jewett explained. "I'm taking the same kind of approach, but in a cooking method."
Although he originally signed a lease to open his shop in what used to be Maggie's Buns located at 2007 21st Ave., during the summer, Jewett found that the location's kitchen wasn't suitable for his process.
Needing to have a more specialized space, Jewett decided his best option would be to custom-build a trailer specifically for ramen production.
After 10 weeks of construction, the trailer was complete and Bamen Ramen was closer to its grand opening in November.
"I hired my first employee two weeks ago," Jewett said, "and one week later, we decided that it was time to open."
Jewett said that the ramen he sells at Bamen Ramen strictly follows the recipe he developed while in Singapore.
"As an engineer, I weigh everything," he remarked. "I weigh the bones, I weigh the water, I weigh the salt, because I want a consistent flavor for my customers."
Now that Bamen Ramen is open, Jewett said, "The feedback we've had in the past few weeks has been very positive."
When asked about possibly expanding the menu or any future plans for Bamen Ramen, Jewett said, "Pork is my focus point, but I do want to start introducing a lot spicier stuff. I want to start doing a vegan miso. I also want to do specials here and there after I get operations firm and steady."
Bamen Ramen is located at 2024 19th Ave. in Forest Grove.
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