Detroit chef Jonathan Kung teams up with Funimation for ramen series
Detroit chef Jonathan Kung saw his star rise last year despite barely leaving his home or studio on Eastern Market.
Most recently, Kung – whose cooking video clips have amassed nearly 1 million TikTok followers in just a few months – has teamed up with the anime distribution company Funimation for “Naruto’s Ramen Showdown”. Together they have posted a collection of how-to videos on Funimation’s Instagram account, which has nearly 2 million other followers. There, Kung turns ramen dishes to suit the personality and powers of the young ninja Naruto, the star of a Japanese manga series.
“These characters themselves are so iconic and there is so much backstory, material and lore that it really was all about picking the most iconic parts of them and breaking them down into recognizable things in a dish,” he told Kung, who says, he grew up watching anime shows.
“Everything from color scheme and attitude, personality and then small bits of what they are known for, their powers and translating into flavors, colors and ingredients to show through the food.”
The ramen series with Funimation started last month and the last video in that series was released Friday. Nothing has been announced yet, but it looks like there will be more collaborations between the anime giant and Chef Kung in the future.
Before the pandemic, Kung worked in restaurants in Detroit and was known for his private series of dinners and pop-up dinners around the city under his Kung Food brand. He said when the lockdown began last spring he was “sitting around in quarantine like everyone else trying to figure out what to do”.
He said he started live on Instagram and made videos to help people cook with what may already be in their pantry, like frittatas, canned meals, and “food that you can make, that you really can do.” can stretch “.
When it became clear that home cooking would be staying here for a while, he opened a TikTok account in May and his fan base grew from there. He currently has almost 920,000 followers and has garnered more than 10 million likes for his cooking videos.
Like dancing and lip-syncing, cooking is a hot topic at TikTok, and Kung’s charming style goes perfectly with video-based platforms. Kungs clips have recipes, cooking tips, and techniques for the chef mixed with some fun content and videos from his dog.
“The crazy thing about TikTok is that I did everything but never left my studio or home,” he said. “I didn’t really get out much, it still doesn’t feel like something is happening when things are happening.”
One of his most watched TikTok clips is a short demo on Szechuan Potatoes that garnered 4.5 million views and thousands of fan comments. Most, but not all, of his cooking skills are centered around Asian cuisine, including Japanese and Chinese dishes. He often tells viewers to go to their local Asian grocery store to find the ingredients for his dishes. On site, he recommends Noble Fish’s Market, H Mart, and especially 168 Asian Mart in Madison Heights.
“I don’t think people here understand what a huge resource this is,” he says of the John R Market, which opened in 2015. “I’m constantly shocked at the things I can find there, like obscure spices from the village my grandmother grew up in … I say I can’t believe I can find this in Michigan, but here I am . ”
With the restaurant industry as unstable as it is and the pandemic making the future uncertain, Kung hesitated to say what his next step would be in terms of events or opening his own restaurant in Detroit. He said a noodle and dumpling restaurant was “in the works”.
“With the pandemic, the light is at the end of the tunnel, but I don’t want to fill out my calendar yet,” he said. Right now he’s “doing more content and videos as I go because I can do that no matter what.”
To watch Kung’s ramen videos with Funimation, please visit Instagram @funimation. At beacons.page/chefjonkung you can find YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, website and more from Chef Kung.
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