A used car dealership in Japan has been honored by Michelin for their $7 ramen bowls.
On the surface, Hot Air makes absolutely no sense. A used car dealership specializing in Suzukis AND a ramen restaurant? Absurd. And yet Katsumi Yoshida makes it work.
Yoshida makes ramen so good, in fact, that he’s being recognized in the latest edition of Michelin’s Guide as a top spot for cheap eats, earning a “Bib Gourmand” for affordable food in the Kyoto, Osaka, and Tottori area.
How did a used car salesman start moonlighting as a ramen chef? It all began years ago when Yoshida entered his ramen into a food festival and earned “high praise,” according to the Asahi Shimbun.
From there, Yoshida decided to actually pursue a second career as a ramen chef by converting a small space of his used car dealership into a ramen restaurant, complete with kitchen and sitting area for customers.
Yoshida began serving his ramen in 2012 to a mostly empty room. Although a humble sign below the larger Suzuki logo advertised his ramen, the combination of used car and ramen restaurant didn’t get a lot of foot traffic.
But Yoshida didn’t give up. He tweaked his recipe tirelessly, using locally sourced ingredients and a digital scale and thermometer to make tiny adjustments by as little as a tenth of a gram. Eventually, through word of mouth alone, news of Yoshida’s delicious ramen spread and his customer base grew.
Then last February, a tall man came in, ordered a bowl of ramen, and after finishing his meal told Yoshida he was from the famed Michelin company. He wanted to interview him for the latest edition of the local Michelin Guide for his delicious ramen.
In October, the “Michelin Guide Kyoto Osaka + Tottori 2019” came out with Hot Air, the name of Yoshida’s car dealership/ramen restaurant, receiving a Bib Gourmand for great value under 8,000 yen (or roughly $45). Now he routinely sells out his entire stock of 60 ramen bowls daily, with each bowl going for $7.
Yoshida hopes that one day he’ll earn a coveted Michelin star, something that has only ever been awarded to one ramen restaurant before.