As a food writer, every once in a great while you run into a restaurant that from the moment it opens, you know it is special. We watched the build out of Other Mama with great anticipation and have been regulars ever since they opened their doors. Recently, we sat down with chef/owner Dan Krohmer to get an intimate look at the man behind the Other Mama:
The Daily Meal: Chef, Other Mama has achieved great success right from the beginning. Why do you think that happened so quickly?
Dan Krohmer: Many people that are journalists such as yourselves have experience at dining and reviewing all kinds of restaurants. When you talk about Other Mama and what your experience has been like, it creates a buzz with other professionals and locals. People are excited to see what’s going on off the strip. People here are invested in their community and looking to bring in good product and serve it in a non-pretentious way at reasonable prices.
What got you to Japan?
I went to Japan and met up with the owners of a sushi restaurant I worked at in Sacramento, California and fell in love with traditional Japan along with the cherry blossoms and the whole thing, so I stayed. I asked to stay and worked illegally for like $300 a month. I did not know any Japanese at the time. I just kept my head down and absorbed. I think everyone should be a minority at some point in your life.
How did you get a chance to work for famed chef Morimoto?
I got recruited as a Sous Chef after my Japanese training and farm to table experience. I worked for him for about two years before I saw that we was not too much into the kitchen so I transferred to the Sushi Bar where I gained huge experience from him for two and a half years.
Tell me about the name Other Mama?
My dad’s parents weren’t around much, working a lot in Bakersfield, California. My great grandmother pretty much raised my dad and his brothers and sisters, they called her Other Mama. That’s how she was introduced to us as kids.
The cuisine at Other Mama is an interesting blend of Asian and American flavors. What is your philosophy on the menu you created?
We take a lot of pride in everything we do here--from our salts to our oils. We care about our customers like they are our family. I wanted to keep it neutral after doing Japanese cuisine for so long. I did not want people coming in expecting certain cultural necessities. We just want to be ourselves and celebrate what ingredients we have at the time. We are not fusion. Obviously we are very seafood-based and are not following cultural boundaries. For example, could this certain clam is best presented in a Spanish dish? Then we do it that way. We want to be free to do things as we want to do. I think everyone should be a minority at some point in your life.
I want you to walk out satisfied, that you feel like you just walked off a yacht feeling sexy, having enjoyed the abundance of the sea. I learned there is a psychology at a sushi bar. Never let your customers leave full. Have them leave satisfied and wanting to come back. I love the artistry and composition of sushi. I learned don’t have your arms crossed, don’t turn your back on a customer, never have a dirty cutting board, show and give respect to everything you are doing. Sushi is simple but you are always thinking about how you can do it better. Sushi is a lifestyle and a state of mind.
You have traveled and worked for years in this business. What advice would you give someone who is in culinary school or who is an aspiring chef?
Make sacrifices. It’s not an overnight process. The longer you wait to show what you can do, the better off you will be. Become the best chef you can possibly be before venturing out on your own. The more you sacrifice, the better you will be.