One of Burke's points was that while he realizes that he is neither Japanese or the one who cooks the food at Two Ten Jack, he has spent years learning about the cuisine through restaurant jobs and trips to Japan. A 2007 visit inspired him to start planning the concept that would eventually become Two Ten Jack, and which will soon be replicated at a new location in Chattanooga. Burke is particularly proud that when the kitchen staff first fired up the expensive grill that he had purchased to make yakitori, the meat coming off the griddle tasted almost exactly like he remembered.
That's an interesting point to me, personally. Is there a role in restaurant development for someone who has the palate and vision to replicate food that most folks haven't had the opportunity to experience in person, and then turn the execution over to talented chefs like Jason McConnell and Jess Benefield to replicate the flavors? I think there might be. I would liken it to the role of a creative director at an ad agency who might not be the most talented designer, but thanks to years of experience can recognize good work when he or she sees it.
Burke respects his role as what he calls "the head curator of Seed Hospitality." He is also fascinated with Japanese culture and strives to continue his education. He told me that the back and forth with Steve Haruch and the online community motivated him, and that his pursuit of knowledge comes from an honest place. To further his exposure to Japanese design and food trends, Burke has planned a 10-day trip to the island to experience the wide array of flavor profiles that Japanese food showcases.
His friends at Sun Noodle, who have provided the ramen for Two Ten and Otaku South, gave him recommendations for his aggressive itinerary which will include five days in Tokyo, two days each in Kyoto and Hiroshima and one day in Mijayama. Hiroshima is known for their Okonomiyaki, savory pancakes that might be featured on Seed Hospitality menus upon Burke's return. In Tokyo, he plans to stay in the same hotel where he originally discovered yakitori in a little eatery around the corner. If the restaurant is still there, Burke hopes to recalibrate his taste memories with a return visit.
He also plans to visit the sushi restuarant run by the youngest son of Jiro Ono, made famous in the fascinating movie Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Takashi Ono practices his fare in Roppongi Hills, and a visit to his place is said to be as close as most mere mortals can get to a meal with the master.
Burke hopes to bring back new memories of flavor profiles, the latest in food trends and possibly some design elements for the new outpost of Two Ten Jack. He also bought a new camera to take a ton of pictures, which he'll share on Instagram if you want to go along for the ride. He also plans to tweet some of his experiences and will even try to answer any questions about Japanese cuisine and culture via email.
His trip started yesterday, so if you have questions or suggestions about his itinerary or just want to experience Japan through Burke's eyes, he invites you to follow him on Instagram and Twitter: @patrickehburke or reach out via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hopefully we'll be able to sample some of the benefits from his research trip on the menus at Two Ten Jack and Zumi Sushi sometime soon.