What's next for Chef Sarah Gavigan

Other

Just a few days after the grand opening of her highly anticipated Gulch restaurant, a very tired Sarah Gavigan told me she has no plans of slowing down anytime soon, but that she doesn't want her expansion to look like those of the city's other hot restaurateurs. - Nashville Business Journal

"I would really want to [expand] to underserved cities that haven’t seen the explosive growth Nashville has … like Little Rock or Birmingham," Gavigan said. "Ramen is not a hipster food."

Gavigan has had a busy past three years. In April 2014, she opened POP, a permanent space for pop-up restaurants and recurring food events in East Nashville. In December 2015, she opened Otaku Ramen, her first Gulch restaurant. And on Saturday, she opened Little Octopus, which is set to be one of the Gulch's most popular new restaurants.

At Otaku, Gavigan said the restaurant is serving about 500 bowls of ramen each day. According to the company's website, those bowls cost between $11 and $16 each, which puts the restaurant's revenue at more than $5,500 per day solely from its sales of entrées.

This volume, Gavigan said, presents quite the challenge.

"We’re striving to keep the experience intimate while doing excessive volume. … [We want it so that our customers] don’t know we’re doing 500 bowls per day in taste or the experience," Gavigan said.

Gavigan said she expects ramen to become as popular in America as hamburgers, pizza and tacos. And as the food continues to grow in popularity, Gavigan hopes to grow with it, writing a ramen-based cookbook and eventually spinning off the Little Octopus brand into a fast-casual concept.

The cookbook, which will be titled Ramen Otaku, is meant to teach readers how to make the broth and noodles for ramen, a goal that Gavigan said is taboo in the ramen community, where the art of making ramen is taught from person to person, not in cookbooks.

"Most of my Japanese male counterparts would be [shunned] from the industry if they did it," Gavigan said.

While traveling to promote her cookbook later this year, Gavigan said she will be scouting for cities that will be ideal homes for her ramen restaurants. For one of the city's hottest new chefs, there's no reason to slow her pace.