LA: Rahul Khopkar – Ramen Hood

LA: Rahul Khopkar – Ramen Hood

Rahul was born in Manhattan, and grew up in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Born to a Korean mother who loves to cook a wide variety of food, and an Indian father who loves to eat a wide variety of food, it was almost a forgone conclusion that he would grow up loving to eat. That love of food eventually parlayed itself into a career cooking.

After a short stint as a bartender at a French restaurant in Maine, Rahul moved back to Wellesley, and backed his way into his first cooking job as a line cook at The Cottage Wellesley, a new restaurant that focused on Southern Californian food. Over two years there, Rahul was exposed to many different aspects of cooking, but eventually decided to follow his love of film, and moved to Los Angeles. While attending school, Rahul took a part time job working for free at The Gorbals in Downtown Los Angeles, just to be back in the kitchen. After a few months Rahul was hired as a line cook full time.

Rahul graduated from The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley in 2013. With a culinary degree under his belt, and some time spent working at Lucques in Los Angeles, Rahul worked at Torc and at Archetype in Napa Valley. While working in the open kitchen at Archetype, Rahul learned to appreciate the incredible produce that Napa has to offer, as well as learning about the local wines. Six months later, Rahul moved to Copenhagen to work at the restaurant Noma. While at Noma, Rahul’s ideas about food were drastically changed, and directed more towards the versatility of vegetables, as well as non-traditional cooking techniques.

While in Copenhagen, Rahul received a call from a longtime friend, Ilan Hall, who had owned The Gorbals, and won season two of Top Chef. Ilan wanted to bring Rahul on board for a vegan project he was planning in Los Angeles, and after some consideration Rahul agreed. After leaving Noma, Rahul spent some time eating his way through Germany, Italy, India, and Australia, and picked up some interesting ideas along the way as well.

Upon returning to Los Angeles, Rahul partnered with Ilan and opened Ramen Hood in downtown Los Angeles. Ramen Hood seats 16 in the historic Grand Central Market, and is a 100% vegan ramen shop, which focuses on showcasing the versatility of the fruits and vegetables available in Southern California.

The biggest influences on Rahul’s love of food, outside of working, would definitely be his mother and extended family. Their love of food and traveling allowed him to travel extensively growing up; he was exposed to many different cuisines across Europe and Asia, as well as at his own dining table growing up. He gravitates towards his Korean and Indian heritage with the flavors he enjoys the most, as well as an insatiable love for Italian food, and french fries.

Please share an off-menu family recipe (or description) or a personal intergenerational food story

The dish for the event is kind of an amalgam of a couple different things so there isn’t necessarily one recipe I could give you as a direct influence for the dish I’ll be doing at the event. Candid family photo is hard to come by as the real underlying influence of the dish comes from the time spent with my dad after my parents were divorced. Photos of that time are somewhat hard to come by as it was a long time ago, but it was really just the two of us in India.

What does participation at LUCKYRICE signify to you?
I really enjoy doing the Luckyrice events. The events provide me an insight into what other people are doing with food that I might not normally come across on my own, and I really value that. It’s easy to get sucked into the scene in one city, despite social media providing insights into other parts of the world. This event in particular, I think, will be very interesting since a lot of it has to do with people’s familial background and the food they make. It can be easy to see someone of a certain decent making their nationalities food, but it’s tough to understand how their own personal experiences influence what they do unless you get to know them. This event will probably be unique in that you can cut to the chase a little bit and see how people’s backgrounds and memories shape what they do today, without necessarily having to spend hours working side by side with someone to understand that.
What do you think of the Asian food moment right now?
I’m not sure I really know what the Asian food movement is as you’re referring to it, but I do acknowledge that there is an increasing number of different Asian cuisines influencing the culinary world right now. Korean food in LA has always been a big part of Asian food in this city, which is awesome, and now we’re starting to see it become more refined and different aspects of it become popular outside of LA. Places like Baroo are definitely showing a more refined side of Korean cooking, while the notion and basic flavor profiles of Korean BBQ are starting to become prevalent all over the place. It makes me happy to see the people are branching out and trying new flavors and techniques. Cooking is a mountain that you must always be climbing.
Join Chef Khopkar and the Ramen Hood Team at the VIP Lounge at our #LUCKYRICE18 Breaking Bao Feast on July 26th DTLA