By CARA SEXTON
University of Mary Washington alumnus Erik Bruner-Yang, a former business major, has received positive recognition for his H-street restaurant in Washington D.C. Now the owner and chef at Toki Underground, Bruner-Yang has made a living of his history working in the restaurant industry.
As a student unsure of what he wanted to do, Bruner-Young did not originally plan on running a restaurant. Before deciding on business administration, he changed his interests and career paths from music to English to anthropology to sociology. While at UMW, Bruner-Yang was well known among the student body. He formed the band, “Pash,” with fellow students.
The 2007 graduate formed his business plan for the Taiwanese restaurant in 2008 and continued from there.
“I was always working in restaurants just to get through school,” said Bruner-Yang. “I was a fairly bad student, and I knew it was just time to buckle down and pick something.”
Within three years, the restaurant opened, and is now in its third year of business. Bruner-Yang developed the name Toki Underground while in the planning stage, getting the word “toki” from the Taiwanese word for “rabbit.”
Toki Underground is famous for its made-from-scratch authentic Taiwanese ramen and dumplings. However, Bruner-Yang’s favorite dish is Curry chicken ramen.
In the short time since Toki Underground opened, it has received recognition. Bruner-Yang was nominated by Food and Wine magazine for “The People’s Best New Chef” award, and the restaurant’s menu has been called “world class” by Bon Appètit magazine.
World famous chefs and judges from the show “Top Chef,”have dined at the high demand, novelty noodle kitchen, as well as the UMW alumni who visit often, according to Bruner-Yang. Actor Neil Patrick Harris tweeted about his experience at Toki Underground.
“[It] is a unique concept in D.C.’s up-and-coming foodie scene,” said freshman Patrick Onesty. “Plus, it’s tasty too.”
The busy, self-taught chef does make time to visit UMW.
“I did a seminar there a month or two ago, and it was a lot of fun,” said Bruner-Yang. “I like to drive through town and see how it has changed since I was there.”