After spending a few years at Baku in SouthPark, Chef Michael Shortino decided it was time to go off on his own and take on the challenge of bringing the ramen concept to South End.
Futo Buta, located at 222 E. Bland St. in the south side of the Post Apartments, expects to open the second week of May.
Futo Buta will have indoor seating for 30-40 people at community tables and a cherry wood bar, as well as outdoor seating by the light rail for 30-40 people. The restaurant will be open Sunday-Thursday from 11 am-10 pm, and Friday-Saturday from 11 am-late, and will offer local beers, various wines and sakes, and even a signature Kombucha from Lenny Boy. See what Shortino had to say about Futo Buta, his passion for cooking and Japanese culture, and his role in what he calls America’s “gastro revolution.”
(1) People go nuts over ramen. Why is ramen so late to the Charlotte restaurant scene?
Excellent question, I’m as surprised as anyone who understands how explosive ramen is in other markets. I think that Charlotte is bursting with potential and opportunity for the hospitality industry. These next 5-10 years, you will see a dramatic change and growth in diverse and creative culinary styles and offerings. With all the young and talented chefs that are playing a dramatic role in molding the future of Charlotte, I just feel blessed to be a part of it and hopefully I can play a small role in what I feel will be a landslide in culinary creativeness and growth in the very near future. Charlotte will definitely play a role in the future of the national “gastro revolution.”
(2) Will the dishes have any local or regional flavors?
Absolutely. Our menu will be mainly derived from local ranchers, farmers and artisan growers. That’s our main focus and that’s what will make our bowls unique to Charlotte.
(3) What does Futo Buta mean? How did you come up with the name?
MS: “Futo,” which is a relatively new word, is mainly used to describe a “fat” roll in post-WWII Japan. “Buta” means “pig.” So, roughly translated, it means “fat pig,” which is a main staple in ramen. Kurobuta (black pig) is the name of the prized Berkshire pig that was introduced to Japan as a gift from the King of England to the Emperor of Japan. I felt the play on words was fun and I liked the way it rolled off the tongue, even though it was in my cheek at the time. Our mascot will play an important role in our branding.
(4) Why ramen and why Japanese cuisine?
I have tremendous respect for the Japanese culture and the level of integrity that they place on everything they set out to do. It mirrors my passion for the culinary arts. Also, the vast array of ingredients that play a role in Japanese cuisine keep you forever busy with new styles and creative ideas.
(5) You spent close to two years at Baku. What led you to want to go off on your own?
I am very proud of what we were able to accomplish and the team we built at Baku. Robata is a very special concept to me and I’ll always have positive memories of the experience and the team I worked with. But, when the opportunity came up to tackle ramen, I knew I had to take the challenge.
(6) Having spent a few decades in Arizona, how did you end up in Charlotte?
Just a mere coincidence. I had done the robata concept with another London-based restaurant group in the past. That is what prompted them to reach out to me to bring the robata concept to Charlotte. I fell in love with the city and decided to stay and make it my home.
(7) Where did you get your passion for cooking and food?
I’m a third-generation chef. I have been in the kitchen with my grandfather and father since I was old enough to walk and hold a knife. There was never a question about my future and I’ve never wanted to pursue any other field other than the culinary arts and hospitality industry. The “family” vibe you always have for the team you work with is addicting!
(8) What is the best meal you’ve ever cooked?
The best meal I have ever cooked is the meal that was enjoyed by the guest who says, “This was one of the best meals I have ever had.” You’re only as good as the last meal you served, and all you can do is strive to be better than that meal. There are only two kinds of cuisine: amazing, and everything else. There is no grey. It’s very black and white for me.