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Tara Norvell first encountered Yuji Haraguchi’s ramen in 2012 when she was working in the kitchen of Roberta’s, one of Brooklyn’s busiest restaurants. “It was the first ramen I’d ever tasted,” she tells us, “when I had it I thought ‘this could actually change the world.’’’ Tara and Yuji soon began working together on the wildly popular Yuji Ramen pop-ups. They later turned their creative partnership into a more substantial project and opened their own restaurant in May of last year.
Okonomi, which is nestled on a quiet street in Williamsburg, fills to the brim seven days a week. The tiny, 12-seat restaurant serves a traditional Ichiju Sansei Japanese set breakfast that incorporates rice, fish, pickles and miso soup made with ingredients collected the same morning at Yuji and Tara’s favourite market.
“I felt from the first day that the breakfast concept was going to work,” Tara says, “New York needed something different.” With their fresh, delicate and wholesome cooking, Tara and Yuji have given New Yorkers a new eating experience that champions fresh food. “My passion is to teach people about food and to change the American diet,” Tara continues, “I didn’t want to just talk about it, I wanted to do something. And the Japanese breakfast was exactly that, it offered people a chance to change the way they eat and realise the dietary options out there.”
Tara, who started out in the fashion industry, can be found in the open kitchen of Okonomi seven days a week but isn’t even close to tiring of it. “When I started cooking, I felt I’d found what I was meant to do,” Tara tells us. “I still feel that way every single day. It’s like being a kid! I’m learning constantly. And it’s the greatest feeling in the world.”
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