Chef Rasheeda Purdie, cultural appreciation and Soul Food Ramen fusion

Through her trifecta of ramen pop-ups for our A NIGHT IN series, Chef Rasheeda Purdie honors newness, transformation, and cultural appreciation.

Rasheeda Purdie head shot

How It All Started

Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Rasheeda Purdie is a New York-based chef with a unique backstory. After 10 years in luxury retail, she decided to attend culinary school, combining her natural artistry with a newfound love for cooking. Rasheeda completed her culinary education at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) in 2015.

She continued to refine and elevate her cooking techniques under the chefs Marcus Samuelsson, Melba Wilson, and “JJ” Johnson. In the Fall of 2020, Chef Rasheeda launched Ramen by Rā, a series of pop-ups and residencies that showcase her innovative fusions of Japanese & southern American cuisines.

Spurred by Quarantine Cravings

Like much of the world in 2020, quarantine forced Chef Rasheeda into stillness. Restaurants, catering and pop-ups came to an abrupt halt, leaving Chef Rasheeda with nothing but time. A ramen craving drew her into the world of Japanese cuisine.

"I was craving ramen, so began making it all the time. I started training myself on how to make rich, savory broths. I read books and watched documentaries on Japanese cuisines and chefs. I learned how much time chefs take to perfect their ramen."

Out With The Old & In With The New

Chef Rasheeda’s foray into the world of ramen bookmarks a new chapter in her culinary career. As such, she explores themes of newness in many of her menus.

Our first pop-up with Chef Rasheeda was “Renaissance”, a menu she describes as a “combination of herself”. Featuring shrimp bao buns, dashi-based miso chicken ramen, vanilla caramel custard, and a green tea & brown rice hot toddy, this meal showcases Chef Rasheeda’s dedication to traditional Japanese flavors.

Renaissance shrimp baos by chef Rasheeda Purdie
Renaissance ramen by chef Rasheeda Purdie
Renaissance dessert by chef Rasheeda Purdie

Later that year, Chef Rasheeda presented, “Resolution” a New Year’s-themed menu that combined Black Southern food rituals with Japanese traditions around bringing in the new year.  Through this menu, Chef Rasheeda shared her most beloved New Year’s traditions — from eating black-eyed peas, collard greens & cornbread for good luck & prosperity to dancing the night away with family in her Aunt’s basement.

Courses included potstickers with a twist of hoppin’ john, black-eyed peas, and soy black beans. She quickly followed this up with Japanese pancakes to give us a soft, spongey, and savory profile.

“It’s a perfect blend of cultures. For example, I wanted to use cornbread which is a New Year’s staple in the Black community. So, I made a Japanese cornbread pancake with a soy glaze syrup in a golden butter.”

Resolution popstickers by chef Rasheeda Purdie
Resolution ramen by chef Rasheeda Purdie
Resolution dessert by chef Rasheeda Purdie

In her 3rd installation, “Revive”, Purdie celebrated the ethereal space between the end of Summer and the beginning of Fall.

The menu started with a seaweed salad and a ponzu dressing topped with a rice cracker crisp –  a refreshing start with a lot of texture. The main dish was a cucumber ramen in a reviving cucumber broth & chili oil. Closing off the experience was a green tea purin topped with a chocolate ginger crumble and crispy mint. 

Revive appetizer by chef Rasheeda Purdie
Revive ramen by chef Rasheeda Purdie
Revive dessert by chef Rasheeda Purdie

Chef Rasheeda develops her unique pairings through layers. 

“When I am creating ramen and my experiences, I think about the layers that you can put into one plate or bowl. I just want to give it to you all in one take. So many different ingredients work well together. It’s just a matter of trying it out, seeing what will complement each other.”

Cultural Appropriation vs. Cultural Appreciation

Chef Rasheeda has always been a fan of Japanese cuisine.

“I have been obsessed with Japanese cuisine for quite some time. It was a matter of me having the courage and focus to tackle it. I was initially fearful of applying to a sushi or ramen restaurant. But, I always wanted to. It took me some time to look at myself in the mirror and challenge myself to open those doors.”

When you are fusing flavors from various cultures, the term appropriation might pop up. Purdie says there’s a difference, and that difference is something we can taste in her foods. 

“It's a fine line. One is taken or one is learned. One might want to take it and profit from it, or one can learn and grow with it. And that's what I want to do. I want to learn and grow as a chef and a human being,”

Let’s Talk “Ramen by Ra”

In 2021, Purdie launched Ramen by Ra with ramen kits available for pick-up and enjoyed at home. Since then, she has hosted several ramen pop-ups, collaborations & residencies, including her Rise + Dine brunch series, her collaboration with Sun Noodles, and her residency and burlesque supper club, Duane Park

As for the future of her business, she hopes to expand nationwide: “Overnight shipping is the goal”

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