The Sopris Sun’s “Our Town” series introduces folks from the community to its readers. For this feature, correspondent Kate Phillips caught up with Calder Morrision, owner and operator of Gaijin Ramen House.
Let’s dive in! Where are you from?
I was born in Louisville, Colorado, but really grew up here in the Roaring Fork Valley (RFV). I moved here in 2002 and jumped around Glenwood for a minute, but spent most of my formative years in Carbondale.
What sparked your interest in cooking?
It’s actually really funny. My mom jokingly said that I had absolutely no palate when I was younger. When I took a gap-year — I was going to computer tech school on the Front Range — I ended up working for Damn Good Tacos, which was an Americanized taco joint that was briefly in Basalt. I was doing a lot of traveling with them throughout the RFV and it was really the excitement of the cooking that brought me to my love for culinary end of things.
I changed my entire plans, went to culinary school and worked at a few small breweries and restaurants. I thought I was hot s***, but I was barely getting to know the restaurant industry and how to prepare food in an efficient way. I worked a little in Aspen and then found Carbondale Beer Works. After a year there, owner Patrice [Fuller] really pushed me to expand my culinary knowledge rather than banking on what I thought I knew.
Where did you go to culinary school?
I studied at CMC’s sustainable cuisine program when it still existed. I took about a 10 year break and just finished with my Associates in Culinary Arts last year.
Tell us about Gaijin Ramen House.
Back in culinary school, I was living in a studio apartment with my best friend — packed-in, living on the couch with his two dogs — and we would get really bored of the ramen we were eating. We were both extremely broke. I was working at a food truck making $8 (plus tips) an hour and tips weren’t great. We started spoofing up our ramen and we kind of got competitive, which pushed me to gain more knowledge about it.
Then, mid-way through COVID, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I finally came to the idea that we could prepare ramen as meal kits and deliver them to people. I was working with my previous business partner Aaron Lemmell in Paonia and we found the community kitchen — which I am still based out of today — and we started playing around with recipes.
What are some of the offerings?
I have a rotating menu of about ten items, the main one being the pork tonkatsu which is about as close to authentic as we get. Basically, it’s a Japanese bone broth with braised pork belly and an assortment of vegetables. We deliver them in these cool kits where you have a quart of freshly frozen broth with the protein and vegetables in it, our fresh egg noodles on the side and a homemade chili oil. You can eat it on the same day or store it for up to two months in your freezer for a quick and easy meal. We also started offering a fresh option that is great for people who want to eat their meal the same-day.
All of our broths are gluten-free and we have noodle and tamari substitutions for those who really enjoy ramen but can’t do gluten. We have other veg and meat options as well.
Where do you guys deliver?
So we have three ridiculously large routes. We do one route that is from Gypsum to Breckenridge, a route here in the RFV every other Wednesday from Aspen to Rifle and a route from Grand Junction to Paonia every other Thursday.
Who else are you working with?
Right now, we are a three person operation. I have a prep cook, a front house person for my hot pop-up in Paonia, and then myself. Oh, and the immense amount of help I get from my parents during farmers’ markets and pop-ups. Calder laughs.
Tell us about your pop-up.
I do a pop-up at our kitchen over in Paonia. We also recently paired up with Thai House Co. & Sushi in El Jebel, where we’re doing a Tuesday night dine-in or take-out which includes five or six of our ramens — that’s happening every week.
What’s the plan for summer 2022?
We’re in talks right now, but folks can look for hot ramen available either via food truck or at a location in RFV by summer. We’ll be rebranding to “Gaijin Noodle” and changing our menu so that there are options available besides just ramen. I want our focus to be that street-food, that more homey, comforting Asian cuisine that doesn’t quite fit your typical sushi or Chinese restaurant. We’ll still maintain a presence at the farmers’ market even once we open the shop this year — so that’ll be something fun for people.
What do you really love about Gaijin?
I would say getting to cook food to make people happy and making it my career at the same time is the best!
Ready to place your order? Visit www.gaijinramenhouse.com or search Gaijin Ramen House on Facebook or Instagram.