Photo credit: Eye Snap Studios
Q&A | Chopping it up with owner of Somas Ramen, Jeffrance Ford
Anyone who's ever been to Flint, MI can agree that the food culture is held in high regard, and new food businesses are always welcomed. Pontiac-born, Flint-based chef, Jeffrance Ford, is contributing to that culture with his booming new food business, Somas Ramen.
A fresh new addition to the Flint area, Jeffrance prepares Japanese ramen dishes from scratch on the daily, using produce from local grocers. He's currently running the business and cooking by himself, but he's grateful for new customers and the positive feedback Somas has been receiving.
It's safe to say he’s a busy man. In fact, he was in the middle of preparing orders for the day as we interviewed him. In our Q&A below, the rising chef spoke on how he opened up his own food business, the obstacles he faced, the best ramen he’s ever had and more. Keep reading to get “the goods” on Jeffrance Ford of Somas Ramen.
The GOODS: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
Jeffrance Ford: “So, I didn't always want to cook. I started cooking when I was 15 or 16. I was doing a program at Skill Center in Flint, and it wasn't something I was feeling to be completely honest. But, I wanted to be able to prove that I can work in a fast-paced environment. After that, I graduated from high school, went to college and got my culinary arts degree at Mott [Community College]. I was like, “Alright, let me just start working inside the field,“ and so I did.
Even though I'm 25, I got nine years worth of cooking experience. I was working for this place in the Farmers Market, and we didn't have the best relationship. I decided to do my own thing, left and I started this [business] but it didn't take off as fast as everybody thought it did. It definitely took off, though, and I was really excited about that. And now, I'm here.”
Photo credit: Eye Snap Studios
TG: How has the response been from your customers and the community?
JF: “I've had more positive than negative feedback. I have had some people come to me like, “I didn’t know you were Black. Why are you making ramen? Japanese noodles? Why are you doing this?” Despite that, I get a lot of good feedback, a lot of people really enjoy what I do and have said they look up to me for inspiration. You don't expect this type of stuff from people like me because I’m your everyday average guy.”
TG: You were born in Pontiac, Michigan. How did you come to live in Flint?
JF: “My family is based in Flint. I was born in Pontiac, but I spent more time in Flint since my mom was in Flint and my dad in Pontiac. As a kid, I would jump back and forth between both homes. I'm from Pontiac, but Flint is my home.”
TG: How did you come up with the name Somas Ramen?
JF: “I'm an anime watcher. I watch a lot of anime. I watch a lot of Japanese anime. I love it. Like, I don't watch my stuff in English. I watched a Japanese anime called Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma. I liked the character Soma and what he stood for; him coming from a not so wealthy background, taking really cheap ingredients and turning them into something that's elevated and cool and unique. I really stand for that.”
TG: When you were working at the Farmers Market, did you have an exit plan ready or was it just a split decision?
JF: “To be completely honest with you, I've always wanted to do this since I was a kid. I've always said I was going to have my own restaurant and be wealthy. But, when I worked at the Farmer’s Market, I didn't go in with the mentality of doing my own thing. I went in there trying to make more money because me and my mom were behind on rent. It was just a job but I knew I could do more.”
TG: How was the process of getting the business up and running? I know, it could probably be challenging for a food business.
JF: “Oh, it's not probably, it’s definitely challenging. It was hard because, for one, there's already established people in the field, so there were a lot of hurdles while I was getting my name out there. I was giving out free food just for feedback. I wasn't a really popular guy and a lot of people didn't know who I was. I was giving free food to people that were popular on my Facebook, that have like over 3000 friends, and everybody gives you like 50 likes 200 likes. They started making posts, and out of nowhere, people started coming.”
TG: What have been some particular challenges other than just trying to get your name out there?
JF: “Finances and time management. When you wake up every day and punch a clock, you have that rhythm down. When you start waking up at a certain time for your own business, it’s different. It's a certain discipline that you have to master. It's not hard but it's a different change of pace. I haven’t really fully mastered it, but I’m still trying.”
Photo credit: Eye Snap Studios
TG: What is the best ramen you've ever had in your life?
JF: “Mine. And I'm not even trying to be funny. Like, it really is. I went to Detroit, me and my girlfriend did, and we were trying out different ramen from different renowned local spots. It wasn't bad, not nasty or anything, but I really felt like mine was better. And I only say that because I'm a skinny dude and a light eater. I don't like a lot of heavy stuff or a lot of grease. I just really like mine.”
TG: What advice would you give to someone who wants to go into a unique food venture?
JF: “Honestly, I would say do you. I’m a Black dude with dreads making ramen for a living. If anything, I would tell people to be themselves, stay true to what they want to do with their life, and realize that failures don’t stop anything. That's all part of the process. If I never quit my job, I literally wouldn't even be having this conversation with you right now. I’d be somewhere punching a clock, working 13 hours a day.”
TG: Any shout outs?
JF: “Shout out to Justin Bush at The Poke Bowl. I really do appreciate him being in this race with me because he's also a Black guy with a culturally-different food product. He's also given me a lot of feedback, so I definitely appreciate him and all the talks we've had.”
To stay up to date with Jeffrance Ford and Somas Ramen, follow him on IG and Facebook at: @somasramen
Also visit the website at: somasramen.com
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