He’s one of the most famous ramen chefs in world, cracking Tokyo and New York and starring in Netflix’s Chef’s Table. Now launching in the UK, Ivan Orkin tells MCA how he’s taking a break from the grind of the kitchen with a licensed delivery-only concept

Japan is not universally known as a welcoming society to outsiders, so when so-called gaijin do try and make their mark on the country, they often have to twice as hard to gain approval.

That was the situation Long Island-born chef Ivan Orkin found himself in when he fell in love with Tokyo.

Anyone who has seen his Chef’s Table episode will appreciate the brute determination, force of character, skill and innovation he needed to impress the Japanese.

And impress he did, quickly becoming one of the most talked about ramen chefs in Tokyo – a city with some 10,000 shops serving the rich salty pork-infused noodle soup.

It was the freewheeling, rock ‘n’ roll possibility of ramen, which at only 100 years old is not bound by such strict tradition as other Japanese foods, which attracted the restaurateur to embrace the cuisine.

And having earned respect and acclaim behind the stock pot for past 30 years, he’s now looking to conquer London and the UK at a more executive level.

Launching in conjunction with food hall and incubator business Sessions, Orkin developed bespoke concept Ivan Mazemen which is now popping up at Shelter Hall in Brighton and Neighbourhood in Islington.

Once these time-limited residencies are up, the menu will be rolled out to more than 100 locations Sessions operates, the brothless ramen dishes especially designed to be delivery-friendly.

For Orkin this is the first part of a two-pronged attack into the UK, with plans to franchise his eponymous Ivan Ramen restaurant as a bricks and mortar concept also on the agenda. 

Speaking to MCA at the launch of Ivan Mazemen in Brighton, he explains it just so happened that the Sessions partnership came to fruition first.

“We were trying to franchise the Ivan Ramen brand, and as far as all the documentation and things you need, we’re pretty close,” he says.


“Sessions reached out to us and initially they wanted to do Ivan Ramen for this concept, but I deferred because I want to keep that for brick and mortar.

“We then we came up with this Ivan Mazemen concept specifically for this. It travels quite well.

“It was a cool opportunity. I’ve always been a really a big fan of the UK and looking for excuses to come here and do something fun.

“I get to be in London and Brighton for a bit and get to reach out to people that have always been interested in the brand.”

For Orkin, delivery is a new avenue, but a prospect he’s prepared to embrace. “It’s a very, very intriguing business opportunity. It’s kind of newish for them too and so we’ll see if it how it works out.

“My food is a little more labour intensive than some others. I think it’ll take a bit to roll it out and get it going.

“I think we have a good chance and it’s fun to be here. What a lovely country.”


It’s also a chance for Orkin to take a more strategic role. “I’ve been calling the shots for most of this,” he adds. “I’ve been I’ve been my own boss for 15/20 years now and I leave most of the grind for the younger guys.

“I’m still involved in every single decision, I write recipes, I cook and taste everything. We all work together, I just don’t go to the restaurant every day and work on the line. I did that for 30 years, so I don’t feel bad about it.”

Orkin’s thicker, rye-infused noodles have a different textures to other ramen noodles, offering an important point of difference to the numerous concepts in London.

And as well as being delivery-friendly, and capable of being packaged in one pot, the less soupy bowl is easier to eat in food hall, Olivia Reid, group food director at Sessions explains.

“Ivan has been attracted to London because there’s been a movement towards ramen, there’s a lot of British takes on ramen that are quite interesting,” she says.

“He’s got a unique offering, and a very long history of working in Japan where he had to learn how to be accepted.

“As a product, it’s unique and familiar at the same time, which is what we need.”


For Sessions, it’s a coup to have an exclusive concept from such a world-renowned chef, and part of its strategy to discover and launch new and exciting brands.

“Part of our greater purpose is looking at new talent in the food sector that we could bring into the UK space, but also look at rolling out for delivery.

“We had heard Ivan was interested in opportunities beyond New York. He loves London, so it was very easy to pitch.

“The idea with offering something new and exciting pushes us to go beyond the UK. We are looking at collaborating with a lot more international talent.

“Our partnerships are all about variety and accessibility, our businesses is about showcasing that in our sites.”

The Ivan pop-up has also given Sessions a chance to shake up its Islington site, which has been rebranded Neighbourhood.

It now has a more “independent restaurant looking vibe”, which sets the scene for it be more versatile for pop-ups.

While Sessions doesn’t plan to milk Orkin too much, he’s a naturally outgoing raconteur and is relaxed appearing on Sunday Brunch and shooting the breeze with journalists. 

“We start with the food, and work our way from there,” Reid adds. “Our agenda is not to merchandise people.”