Rumplings Slurp Shop: Tragedy, Love, and Lots of Experience

10012688_588306437958165_321149970781069771_oWhat does an almost fatal accidental shooting, a group hug, a helping hand, a few different kitchen jobs, and a zen-like noodle-sharing experience all have in common? Holy crap, I have no idea. What I do know is that these, among other amazing stories, came out in a recent sit-down conversation I had with the three very passionate chefs behind the brand new Ramen restaurant, Rumplings Slurp Shop, which is set to open in the Highlands this week.

Griffin Paulin, co-owner of Rumplings Slurp Shop at 2009 Highland Ave, describes his relationship with executive chef Chip Hartley, and “dough ho” / sous chef Ethan Ray, as “a total contradiction…but, my life is a total contradiction,” Paulin said, “and this restaurant will be nothing if it’s not me.”

Paulin, Hartley, and Ray have worked together over the years in a number of different kitchen capacities, and each of them have worked as a superior to each other at one point or another in their respective careers. It seems that one of the main things they have learned from working so closely is that their friendship cannot be broken.

“It’s not bickering or arguing when we talk to each other, even if it seems that way to other people sometimes, ” said Ray, “we have a great mutual respect for each other, and we respect each others’ opinions and abilities in the kitchen.”

That’s a good thing, too. From the buzz that surrounds the grand opening of Rumplings, it appears that the small Highlands noodle shop will be bursting at the seams for the foreseeable future, which would typically bring a load of stress to most people during the opening weeks. Not these guys. They are focused and full of love: love for each other, love for the restaurant industry, and love for making delicious treats for their clientele. The Rumplings guys definitely want everyone to experience the happiness of having a zen-like noodle-eating experience.

“Everyone has to eat,” says Paulin, “if you have the option, why eat just to stay alive? Why not eat something great, and enjoy it instead?” I agree, dude. I love great food.

In a recent test run using one of Griffin’s recipes, as they were trying to finalize the Rumplings menu, the three friends shared a bowl of noodles together. They literally shared it. “I don’t share my food,” said Chip Hartley. Griffin won’t even eat after his five-year-old son! But on this specific occasion, they were so overcome by tasting the deliciousness they had just created,  it became a calm, conversation-free, zen-like experience.

“I think we even surprised ourselves with how good it is,” Paulin said, “this is my recipe, but when all three of us created it together, it was so much better and on a completely different level than I had ever made it before. If it ever gets to the point where we can’t improve on our dishes then it’s probably time for us to do something else.”

The experience that these three have gained throughout the years, both personally and professionally, has indeed proven to be the proper preparation for where they are now, and this fresh adventure they are about to embark upon. Chip and Ethan have been close friends for about eighteen years now. Their friendship actually began with what should have been a tragedy.

“I shot him,” Chip said about Ethan, “in the chest… With a real gun, not a bb gun, a .22, when we were younger. It was an accident, of course, and maybe a result of some bad parenting, but he could have easily died,”according to Hartley. Ethan definitely has the scar to prove it, yet he laughs about it now and says, “well, he says he shot me because I talk too much.” Of course, not long after he shot Ethan, Chip managed to save him from drowning. Are you kidding me? You can’t make this stuff up.

Growing a little older now, these three chefs have been through bad break-ups with girlfriends, a spousal separation, and the joys of all living together in the same house, keeping some of the craziest hours you can think of, but always looking out for each other. One thing remains stronger than ever: their bond as friends. Of course, with three chefs living in a house, you can expect some ridiculousness. At one point, Chip was living on a couch in the dining room of a two-bedroom apartment they used to rent, however they have assured me now that they all have their own bedrooms. With hectic hours and chef minds, you can only imagine what their kitchen was like at home.

“I would wake up in the middle of the night and walk downstairs; and there’s Chip and Ethan with gloves on cutting open a whole pig in the kitchen. I was like, ‘what are you doing?'” It turns out, they were helping another friend who was getting married the next day. Do you notice a common theme here? I see that “helping hand” mentality that these guys embrace, not only for each other, but for everyone.

As for their ability to cook? Well, I think you know where I stand on that. The three Rumplings chefs have carefully and thoughtfully put together a spectacular menu that not only keeps with traditional Ramen preparation, but adds a Kentucky twist, and an interpretation of flavors that shows just how far they’ve come as chefs, and how well they work together. They will also be working with other local chefs to bring even more Louisville to their Ramen dishes. With this much love, respect, and skill, I cannot imagine a better addition to Louisville’s culinary scene, and the Highlands neighborhood. I’m ready to slurp!

The grand opening of Rumplings Slurp Shop is scheduled for Friday, November 7th, 2014. They will be open Wednesday through Saturday, 5:00 pm to 5:00 am.

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