How Vite Ramen Went From Inedible to Incredible: The Untold Story of Patch Notes
When Vite Ramen first released, I never ate it.
It was all I could hear in the back of my mind.
“You never should’ve tried this. Stupid, stupid, stupid.”
It was 2019. We’d finally delivered the Kickstarter orders, shipping out box after box of ramen. But I knew what the response would be. I knew the disappointment and cruelty that would follow.
And all I could do was brace for the comments.
"If only we took the investor money…"
I went to bed with a heavy, twisted heart. If only my hands weren’t tied in a thousand different ways. If only my mind weren’t knotted in a million different directions. If only our money wasn’t tied up in countless directions.
If only, if only, if only.
Vite Ramen’s soul was broken, torn in a hundred different ways.
It was easy to envision at the beginning. Nutritionally complete, and make it taste good. Tom, my twin brother and co-founder, would take care of the nutrition side. He had a degree in Clinical Nutrition from UC Davis, after all. I would take care of the flavor side.
That should be easy for me, right? After all, I used to cook at a Michelin Star restaurant. My grasp of flavor, taste concepts, texture, everything else associated with food– I was world class. I’d cut my teeth in the harshest of environments, where others would be proud to just intern at for a stint.
It’s said that it’s not what you don’t know that gets you in trouble, it’s what you don’t know that you don’t know.
It’s the concepts that haven’t even whispered at the edges of your mind, the troubles that stir underneath, covered up by the breadth of ignorance that you have.
And I was ignorant of so, so many things.
We’d wanted ramen– Curly, springy noodles that we’re all so familiar with. But those kinds of noodles were made by specialized machines, and those machines were far out of our reach. How does one even start trying to buy a machine that can do what we wanted? We had no idea. The most we’d found on google was a Japanese machine, but it was staggeringly expensive with low output– $75,000, difficult to clean, and far too finicky for what we needed. The manufacturers admitted that they weren’t even sure it’d be able to handle the toughness of our high protein noodles.
Trying to make them by hand was out of the question too. Not only would making them with hand crank machines be slow, but the low hydration, high protein nature of our noodles, especially combined with the real kansui that we used, made them exceptionally tough. The dough couldn’t come together unless we stepped on it, which wasn’t done for obvious reasons.
We settled on, out of everything, an Italian pasta machine. It had a dual mixing chamber design, which significantly improved the potential output, and had the torque and force to actually press the high protein dough together, which had become a real concern of ours as testing continued. It could mix the water and flour into dough, it could press it into sheets, and it could cut it into noodles.
But it was, still, a compromise. We knew this. As much as we wished we had a machine capable of producing those distinct, curly noodles so unique to ramen, we simply didn’t have the money for it.
“That’s fine,” I told myself. “It’s okay, it’s just one thing. We’ll make the rest work out.”
Just one thing.
Just one thing, I whispered to myself as I stared at the powders before me, just one compromise.
The soup was tasteless. “Bland,” as others would come to describe it. Bland, a word that still causes me a sinking, frustrated, helpless feeling inside.
I had my pride as a cook, had an exceptional arrogance coming into this project with all the experience and abilities that I had gained over the years. But this? This wasn’t cooking. This wasn’t food the way I had known it for all these years.
All of my much vaunted technique, my heat control, my understanding of taste and texture, all of it came to nothing in the face of food manufacturing. There was no room for the sizzle of sautéing onions, the aromatics that burst into the air when herbs met a hot pan. No room for perfectly diced vegetables, no room for the long practiced precision with a knife, no room for the searing and plating I was used to. This food was created on spreadsheets, moved through negotiations between businesses, created with design constraints and cost-effectiveness in mind.
It was as if I'd stepped from a vibrant world where colors splashed in an expressive, controlled chaos into a world of monochrome, uniform lines.
When you cook, you take an ingredient, and you decide how you want to process it. An onion can be boiled for stock, diced and sauteed, sliced and eaten raw on a burger. You can change it. Play with it. Figure out how it behaves as you work with it.
And yet, here I was, staring down a spreadsheet of percentages, with immutable powders with distinct, set flavors in front of me…
…and I had no idea what to do.
Tom came to me with the results of his market research as well. All natural, 25% DV sodium or lower, and no MSG. It was what the market wanted, he told me, it’s what people always complained about with instant ramen. And he wasn’t wrong. On top of my inability to modify the ingredients in the ways that I’d grown accustomed to, and on top of the less-than-stellar powders that we could procure on our limited budget, I’d been handed this set of restrictions by what the market had dictated to us.
These were things that we hadn’t thought about, but we felt compelled to tune the product to. It’s not what we believed in, it’s not what we thought was right, but… we had to listen to the market, didn’t we? We had to do what the market told us to do… right?
I had to try. I had to do… something.
The clock ticked away.
Day by day, week by week. The Kickstarter ended, and we had to order the ingredients. I had to finalize. I looked at the recipes, and felt only shame.
This wasn’t the ramen I’d dreamed of.
But we kept up the facade. We delivered, because what else could we do? Vite Ramen, as we had dreamed of, was not this. It was not noodles made in the style of pasta, with nutrient soup that barely had enough ingredients to cover up the bitter, medicinal, metallic taste of the vitamins and minerals.
Despite our passion, despite our skills, despite the years we spent, pouring our hearts and lives into this…
Vite Ramen was a failure, in my eyes.
Those days, I still worked the line in the day before I went back to do all the other things needed to run a business at night. Every day, every week, I would make noodles on this pasta machine, nicknamed ‘Ol Reliable(because it wasn’t), and have too much time to think as my body moved in practiced motions, unable to drown out the maelstrom of recurring, self-deprecating thoughts. I’d get eight hours where I’d stew on what could’ve been, what we could’ve made, if only we had the money to buy a good machine. If only we had the money to buy the ingredients that we wanted. If only we could hire someone who knew what they were doing, and not rely on the fumbling, inexperienced, incompetent person sabotaging his own dream.
We delivered the noodles. We sold them. But we’d received the feedback. We knew what many people thought.
And…Not everyone was like this. There were a good number of people who liked what we made, and for that, I am still eternally grateful. Some of you might be reading this right now. And if you are, I want to let you know that your comments, your support, and your love was the only thing that kept me from despair. From declaring it all a failed experiment. From simply not showing up at the facility ever again, shutting my door, and closing myself off from the world.
Some of you knew we were doing our best with what we had, and bought it to whip up with additional ingredients to support us, keep us going. Some of you enjoyed it for what it was, despite its faults and weaknesses, and some of you promised to come back as soon as we improved our recipe.
I had, back then, just a glimmer of hope, fed by those of you with the biggest hearts and the brightest words. It sparked the faintest ember of determination to keep going, kindled by the frustration of my failure and fanned by the spite of those who said that this failure was proof that they were right all along.
I am, and will forever be torn between the two sides of me. The one that tells me to rest, give up, to do it the easy way. Sometimes it’s right. But the other times? Most of the time? It’s the other side of me, the one that rages against the impossible, crashes time and time again against the boundaries of what could be, and fights on, bruised and bloodied, not in spite of the adversity ahead, but because of it.
There are some things in life that are worth doing because they are the hard things. The right things. We didn’t take the investor money we were constantly offered. We didn’t start contracting overseas factories. We didn’t cut our living wages and succumbed to the temptations of the profit driven business models.
And so, we gritted our teeth, and we fought.
This is our unwavering commitment to growing. To the relentless pursuit of being better. To achieving the vision we’d dreamed of when we started all those years ago.
Our changes didn’t happen overnight. Nothing does. And yet, we fought towards what we believed in, step by grueling step, fighting for our beliefs, our vision, our dreams.
Our Patch Notes as lighthearted as they’re written, represent our commitment to these beliefs. It’s our journey taken, step by step, as Vite Ramen grew from v1.0 all the way to the v3.0 that it is today. From fighting the stigma on MSG, to making flavors that I truly loved without the constraints of sodium, to getting a true ramen machine and wrestling it to be able to wrangle our high protein noodles, we fought for every change, every belief, every conviction with unwavering determination.
So, here's to the ones who refuse to be satisfied with mediocrity. Here’s to those who don’t settle, to those always striving for more. Here's to the fighters, the dreamers, and the ones who get back up when they’re down. Because in the end, it’s those who are tenacious enough to believe in their convictions that turn the world to their vision.
It’s not over. Not by a long shot. And so, we fight on.
These are the untold stories of Vite. These are the stories of catharsis, of victory, of despair, and of everything in between, told throughout October in writing, and videos, and of course, the ramen that we make.
Enjoy the ride.
And meanwhile, get some of the noodles we’ve worked so hard for, won’t you? Use code PATCHNOTES for 15% off. Offer ends Monday the 9th, so get it now!
-Tim, Founder/CEO Vite Kitchens
Get Your v3.0 Vite Ramen OG today