the Anaba Tea Room closed last year and Tochi Ramen opened in its
place, Chef Gregg DesRosier knew that it might take a while for
regular customers to accept the change. But accept it, they did ó
and in droves ó as Tochi has served 50,000 bowls of ramen in its
first year. DesRosier sat down with M Magazine to discuss the changes,
his travels to Asia and his love of Japanese mayo.
Tell us a bit
about your culinary background.
"I did an
apprenticeship under Sandy DíAmatoís sous chef from John Byronís,
Bonnie Stutebeck. She and Sandy had basically run John Byronís
(before he went to open Sanford), and she ended up in West Bend. Back
then, you could apprentice to become a chef so thatís what I
How did you end
up at Anaba?
opened up a cajun place in West Bend with a friend of mine, but he
ended up severely injured in a car accident. I wanted to go the
farthest away from what I knew, and I didnít know anything about tea
or tearooms. I met the owner of Anaba and seven other chefs, and I
cooked for her what we thought a tearoom should have. I did an Asian
pear chicken salad and a cucumber sandwich.
I always thought
a tearoom should have an Asian bent. When we started, we had only six
teas. At one point, we were up to 90-odd teas, and now weíre down to
Tell me about
close to two years to develop the concept form from Anaba to the
first, full-time ramen restaurant in Milwaukee. We wanted it to be
accessible to people who donít know what ramen is and be true to
what people who do know what ramen is. But we also wanted to put our
personality in so we have some pretty classic broths, but then we have
bacon apple chorizo ramen. We want to be able to chef it up a little
been incredible. We are doing three times the business we did when it
was Anaba. We go through probably 600 pounds of pork a week, and the
most gratifying experience has been with people who have traveled to
Japan and say they enjoy it and that they are surprised that it is an
American who is making it.
want this restaurant to be the only ramen restaurant. Within the next
year or so, Iím going to transition to being more of a restaurateur
than a chef. There are some really good chefs I work with, and I want
to have more restaurants and place them at the helm. I would love to
facilitate for them to get their own restaurants."
You travel a lot
for research. Tell me about your travels.
was Anaba, I traveled to Vietnam and China, and what that did is
reframe cooking for me. I was really attracted to the simplicity and
the balance of cooking in Asia. One thing I remember is eating at this
farmhouse, and this guy pulled out a live fish, cleaned and gutted it,
and it was on the grill in less than two minutes. It was one of the
best fish Iíve ever had.
This year I am
planning on flying into Ho Chi Minh City, buying a motorcycle and then
driving to Hanoi with a Vietnamese chef who is a friend. Then, once I
get to Hanoi, I have to fly out to Japan, and I have to do some ramen
What are the
staples and tools you have to have in your kitchen?
live without Kewpie mayo, which is a Japanese mayo, and thereís no
mayo like it. I canít do without the incredible muse that is the
egg, and I probably couldnít do without smoked pepper. Iíve been
smoking peppercorns a lot lately. I cold smoke them in a smoker for
about 10 hours, then grind them up. Theyíre nice and smoky.
not live with out tongs, and I think you should be able to do
everything with tongs. I can open a can with tongs. I also could not
live without a knife. I have a Mundial chefís knife that Iíve had
for 25 years. I like my new knives, but I always come back to this
one. It was the first knife I bought with my own money, and I bought
it from a guy who sold it to me out of the back of his car."