Growing up in Tokyo, Japan, Seigo Nishimura had a love for ramen and the unique ramen flavors from his hometown. A chef and entrepreneur at heart, Seigo worked part-time jobs in restaurants through school and cooked elaborate meals for friends and family while pursuing his career in the automotive industry. After a few years, he decided to leave the automobile industry to attend the Tokyo Sushi Academy and work in a Micheline-starred restaurant in NY’s East Village. Soon after, realizing his entrepreneurial dream, he leveraged his culinary experiences and founded Satori Ramen Bar at North Market Downtown.
Seigo’s wife and business partner, Casey Cooper-Fenske, explains, “There’s a market that doesn’t exist yet in the Midwest. There is a lot more Japanese cuisine we don’t have readily yet. Seigo’s entrepreneurial mindset, combined with his love of ramen created the perfect opportunity to build this business.”
Satori Ramen Bar is all about high-quality food and – even more importantly – the significance they place on community. Seigo has developed a dedicated group of employees and supports their dreams, providing mentorship to get them where they want to be.
The first two months after opening the business were a challenge, with Seigo staying up all night making broth with twelve-hour shifts. Lisa Gutierrez, owner of Dos Hermanos restaurant reached out to Seigo and asked if he wanted to join the Food Fort 2.0 kitchen at ECDI. Having use of a full kitchen at Food Fort 2.0 helped the new restaurateurs keep up with demand, grow their staff, create more jobs for the community and develop a loyal fan base. Additionally, they enjoyed working with the ECDI team. They gained access to information and resources, finding support and connections with other food businesses.
“The mentorship from ECDI has been great,” Casey said. “They have always been available to call with any business questions. Joining Food Fort has led us to other small businesses. We get a lot of insight from our relationship with Lisa. This mentorship and advice trickles down through the whole community.”
Seigo believes connections in the community are so valuable. “As an entrepreneur, you have a lot of passion, and it’s important to have people there to help you out.” Running Satori Ramen Bar was a lot of late nights and long hours at the start, but with the support system at Food Fort 2.0, they’ve gained solid footing. Now Seigo strives to pay it forward by helping other entrepreneurs who are getting their start, just as Lisa did for him.
As Satori Ramen Bar continues to grow, their plan is to expand to other locations. Kintsugi Sushi Bar at North Market Bridge Park is their newly opened sister restaurant, devoted to sharing authentic sushi traditions and paying it forward by expanding their supportive community. They hope to maintain the adventure of inspiring love of the authentic ramen Seigo grew up on as well as other important Japanese culinary traditions.