For Jun San Juan, the path to opening a new Ramen noodle bar in Cary with his wife, Debby, has been "quite the journey."
"We’re excited," San Juan said. "We are really eager to open."
Ramen DoBo Noodle Bar was set to launch Feb. 1 at 716 Northwest Highway in Cary.
San Juan has lived with his family in Cary for 15 years. He had previously opened a sandwich bar in Lake Forest during the recession, which was already a hard time to own a business. This also was around the time his daughter was born.
"I told my wife, you know what, I feel guilty for not spending enough time with our daughter," he said, so the restaurant closed. "Here we are over 10 years later. [My daughter's] grown; let’s do it again."
Originally from Manila, San Juan said he grew up in the kitchen.
"My mom was a cook, so she catered; so that’s what she did on a part-time basis," San Juan said. "We were a big family; I was No. 7 of nine kids; so to help out dad, I grew up around the kitchen around my mom."
When San Juan came to America he found that he missed his mom's cooking. Every weekend, he would call her, and ask for the recipe for various dishes.
After getting burnt out from the corporate restaurant finance work he was doing, San Juan went to cooking school, where he really fell in love with his craft.
"You get to a point where you look for meaning," San Juan said. "And I find meaning in the kitchen."
San Juan's formal training is in French cuisine, but after studying in Japan during college, he fell in love with Japanese food.
"I liked the discipline that goes into it," he said.
After coming back from Japan and getting married, he then passed his love for Japanese cuisine down, to his son especially.
"He's the one who's really into ramen," San Juan said.
When San Juan asked his wife about potentially opening another restaurant she said yes – with one condition.
"She said we will do it only if we have a ramen shop," San Juan said. "She just loves ramen; our kids loves ramen; it kind of matches."
He later learned ramen is one of the fastest growing ethnic dishes cuisines in the U.S.
"We wanted to ride that wave in a way," San Juan said.
San Juan went back to Japan this past summer, spending time with a ramen master in Yokohama, where he spent a couple weeks learning how to make the broth and everything else included in ramen.
"Making [ramen] is simple; it’s just time consuming," San Juan said. "It's about finding the balance of flavors."
The broth in the ramen takes two days to make. San Juan said there are five elements in ramen – the first is the broth, the second is the noodles, the third is the base flavor, the fourth is the toppings and the last is oil.
"We are going to be very true to the process like they do in Yokohama," San Juan said.
There's going to be a fixed menu at Ramen DoBo to start, but once the owners get into the swing of things, eventually customers will be able to customize the menu.
Some of San Juan's goals are to work with local farms, and have a seasonal menu, or limited time offers.
"We want to be not the typical ramen shop," San Juan said.
Hours during the noodle bar's "soft open" starting Feb.1 are 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and the restaurant will be closed Sunday and Monday.
However, San Juan said these hours are only temporary until they settle down and get their process straight.
"We have a vision, but we gotta make sure the vision works," he said.