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Inspiring Conversations with Ernie Watkins of Konfucious Eats

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ernie Watkins.

Hi Ernie, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
After getting out of the Marines, I got a job as a sushi helper. No previous kitchen experience but I’ve always wanted to work in a restaurant. After a few years of that, I became sushi manager. I was there for over seven years until I left to become a line cook at a casino. Going from sushi to making burgers and steaks was definitely a challenge but helped my skills develop even more. After being promoted to Assistant Food and Beverage manager, I started learning the business side of the restaurant. Learning skills that would later help me when I opened my first restaurant. After a few years at the casino and getting married, I needed to work closer to home as commuting in bay area traffic will add stress and lost time. Came back to Modesto and started working at Umi Sushi as the restaurant manager and sushi chef. It was during this time I went to Japan for my 2nd time and thats when ramen took over my mind. Came home and started to learn how to make ramen from scratch. Started making ramen for friends and family that eventually turned into my first pop up at a friend’s restaurant. That was the same week the Covid shutdowns started in March of 2020. Had to cancel the pop up with hundreds of dollars of product to use.

Reached out to a few friends and asked if they would like a ramen kit. Uncooked noodles, broth and toppings that they can put together themselves at home! People started to really get interested in that concept. First selling 40 kits then 80. After that, I would post the kits on Instagram and would sell out 100 kits within hours of posting! I was feeling like I really had something special then life threw me another curveball and was let go of my sushi job. Feeling lost about the future started to make ramen kits full time while contemplating my options for a job but I knew then I wanted my own business. Life is full of surprises and I was surprised when my friend I originally did the pop up at offered to let me take over his first spot as he was merging the old restaurant with his new location. A dream come true and a perfect opportunity! I had to take the dive even though there was plenty of people that had concerns opening a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic. But I am proud of what I have accomplished and after eight months open, we continue to grow and get better.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Life is never smooth. My failures and challenges over the years has prepared me for what I am doing now. I have a firm belief that everything happens for a reason.

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about Konfucious Eats?
We are Modesto’s first ramen shop! We make ramen from scratch. Noodles and broths made in house. As well as many Korean dishes for our rice bowls and my mom’s kimchi recipe handed down to me. Japanese-style sandwiches made with milk bread. My menu is very influenced by Korean and Japanese cuisine. We also offer a private omakase sushi dinner on an occasional Sunday.

What quality or characteristic do you feel is most important to your success?
I want to make people feel comfortable whether it is an employees or customers. We make food with love and we all are hard workers with determination and passion.

Contact Info:

  • Email: konfuciouseats@gmail.com
  • Website: konfuciouseats.com
  • Instagram: @konfuciouseats


Image Credits:

All photos taken my Ernie Watkibs

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