Updated: Aug 25
Ramen AF: Neo-Soul Fusion Ramen Pop Up From The Home Of A Furloughed Chef
Furloughed cooks, bakers and chefs across America have turned to home-based food businesses to meet their financial needs during the COVID-19 crisis. The DC-area has witnessed a resurgence of these entrepreneurial efforts, as chefs from prominent restaurants sell plates of fixed-menu meals made in home kitchens using word of mouth and social media for advertising. While local cottage food laws don't allow for the sale of food requiring temperature regulation, which would include the hot meal offers currently proliferating, home-based food businesses persist. For many, selling to-go plates carefully packaged in their home kitchens helps bridge the gap between unemployment benefits and bills.
"Chefs gotta pay their mortgages", says Chef Rollins, a Baltimore native with 20 years experience. When COVID struck the region, Rollins was running a catering business and working at a restaurant in downtown DC. As catering orders dried up and he was furloughed from his restaurant position, Rollins turned his professional skills towards a new business venture. Ramen AF, A Pop-Up Carryout, was born out of those experiments.
Ramen AF features food Rollins had long considered but never had the time to perfect. The menu fuses influences from the Black diaspora to create what he calls Asian/Neo-Soul ramen. "It takes a lot of skill to make a restaurant-quality meal in a home kitchen," says Rollins. He spent a month developing a Shiro smoked turkey broth as he rarely eats pork and wanted to ensure his offerings didn't exclude others with similar dietary restrictions. Rollins experimented with toppings including sauteed collard greens, roasted black-eyed peas, and chow-chow to create overloaded, hearty bowls drawing on elements of soul food. After a successful first pop-up, he spent another two weeks developing a vegan broth and adding a Honey Bourbonade cocktail option to the menu for this Saturday's second iteration of Ramen AF, A Pop-Up Carryout.
For the duration of this crisis - as long as restaurant closures, dine-in occupancy limits and reduced staffing continue - home-based pop-ups like Ramen AF will continue to operate. Next time you see someone on Instagram selling plates - of tamales, fried fish or even bbq - take note, that might be one of the area's trained, professional chefs.
Ramen AF's second pop-up is accepting pre-orders via email or on Instagram until 6 pm on Wednesday, July 15, 2020. Pickup will be in Mt. Rainier on July 18 from 3 pm - 7 pm.