Cincinnati Chefs to Watch in 2020: Erik Bentz and Elaine Townsend

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Photograph courtesy of Mochiko

Already accomplished chefs in their own right, Erik Bentz and Elaine Townsend are the dynamic duo behind runaway success ramen, omerice, and Japanese pastry pop-up Mochiko. Word of their authentic eats spread quickly, and before they knew it, lines were forming out the door of their previous spot at downtown’s former Money Chicken. Now they’re on the hunt for a new, larger home base for their pop-ups in hopes of eventually opening their own restaurant in Cincinnati. We caught up with them to chat about about their signature dishes, favorite techniques, and more.

Years in the industry:
Erik, 9–10; Elaine, 10–11

Signature dish:
EB: Omurice
ET: Earl Grey mochi

Favorite technique:
EB: Hard roasting in a carbon steel pan
ET: The tangzhong baking method, used to make Hong Kong milk bread

Most underrated tool in the kitchen:
EB: Chopsticks. “You can use them for anything—whisk, stir, grab things.”
ET: A good scale “It’s so essential because I measure things in such large batches.”

Most underrated skill in the kitchen:
EB: Confidence “You’ll never get things done if you’re trying to tiptoe around.”
ET: “A willingness to learn.”

How do you challenge yourself?
EB: “Spending a lot of time testing [new techniques].”
ET: “I feel the same way about pastries, for sure.”

Where do you find inspiration?
EB: “I watch a lot of YouTube videos of [documentaries] going into [Japanese] kitchens and seeing how they work.”
ET: Instagram “There are so many chefs out there who are doing amazing things and breaking barriers. I think, I don’t think I could ever do anything like that, but let’s try.”

Why do you love what you do?
EB: “There’s a lot of instant gratification when you make food and get to see someone eat it and you see their response. It’s an amazing thing.”
ET: “I really like making things with my hands. [Baking] is a very structured world, and I love having structure.”

What do you like to cook at home?
ET: “We eat ungodly amounts of ramen.” [laughing]

What’s ahead?
Exploring sites for a permanent location.

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