Ima’s Mike Ransom on Drawing Influences From Different Regions

As part of our Taste Makers series, blogger and chef MyThy Huynh talks to Mike Ransom, the voyager behind Ima

With more than 24,000 followers, MyThy Huynh runs food Instagram account, Mighty in the Mitten, and regularly hosts restaurant takeovers across metro Detroit. When she interviewed owner and Executive Chef Mike Ransom of Ima, they talked getting national attention and their shared passion — East Asian cuisine.

MyThy Huynh: What inspired Ima?

Mike Ransom: My folks raised me on Japanese ingredients, because that’s how they learned how to cook vegetarian food as young hippies. It was always something I explored on my own, but I had never cooked in an Asian restaurant. I always cooked in French, New American, or Italian restaurants. When I decided to open my own, I started thinking about the food I could never get tired of — and that’s noodles and soup.

MH: What do you think is the best part of Detroit’s food scene?

MR: The energy in the city and how excited everybody is to put their product out into a market that’s hungry for new things. Cooking here as a younger chef, my hands were kind of tied by the lack of adventure people had in their dining habits. So to have new concepts thriving here and diners greeting them with open arms is really exciting.

MH: Worst part?

MR: On the down side, the lack of skilled labor for restaurants is the biggest challenge. But that’s everywhere.

MH: So, now that you’ve gotten national acclaim, how have things changed for you as a chef?

MR: I feel like sometimes you have to keep your head down, because if you dwell on those things, they distract you. The product that got us the recognition can’t be the end point. We have to keep evolving and keep perfecting what we do.

MH: What are you and Ima adding to the conversation in Detroit?

MR: Working in a lot of great food markets — I spent time in Chicago, San Francisco, and Baltimore — I got to see a lot of different approaches. It allowed me to have a menu that isn’t pigeon-holed into a Japanese-style noodle soup. It allows it to be a big-picture menu with influences from other regions and other food styles.

MH: What makes you jump out of bed every day?

MR: Being able to explore new adventures. There’s never enough room on the menu to test out new items. There’s never enough time in one day to have the conversations you need to have. There’s never enough time to experience the world. I’m always learning, always wanting to be able to offer these new food ideas and new concepts to our guests. Also, seeing people around me and the city right now grow, are all things that keep me excited to be here.

—As told to Ashley Winn

Take a Bite

Ima, 2015 Michigan Ave., Detroit, and 32203 John R Rd., Madison Heights; Mighty in the Mitten, @mightyinthemitten