Noodle Nirvana, Berea’s New Eatery

By: Destiny Calhoun
Originally posted in The Pinnacle

If you love eating food but hate breaking the bank on eating out your concern may be addressed by the new restaurant in town, Noodle Nirvana. Noodle Nirvana is a new startup by Mae Suramek ‘95, and offers a unique take on noodles for a low price with student’s discounts. The Pinnacle had the pleasure of sitting down with Suramek for an inside edition about Noodle Nirvana.

Pinnacle: What is the vision of Noodle Nirvana?
Suramek: “To create wonderful comfort food that is as locally sourced as possible, while at the same time impacting significant change in the community.”

Pinnacle: Where did the idea for Noodle Nirvana come from?
Suramek: “I had been in nonprofit management and I was the director of the Bluegrass Rape Crisis Center. I was drawn to that job because I believed in advocating for the rights of people who had their rights taken away from them. What I found was that I spent 80 or 90 percent of my time begging for money for us to do the basic elements of our job. So I came to the conclusion that non-profit funding is flawed, it’s not sustainable and I thought that there must be a better way. When I was working in non-profit there would be businesses much like this one [Noodle Nirvana] that were very well-meaning and wanted to help. They would do things like, ‘If you can meet up at a certain restaurant on this one day we’ll give ten percent of our proceeds to a certain organization.’ That’s when a light bulb hit me and I thought if I do this I want to be impactful, so that’s when we created this business model where we partner with one non-profit a year. The first Tuesday of every month 25 percent of our profits and our tips go to that non-profit. We wanted to create a different kind of business, one that is profitable and shares those profits with our employees and the community.”

Pinnacle: What is your favorite bowl at Noodle Nirvana?
Suramek: “Mom’s curry noodle bowl, it’s our most popular bowl here. It is the bowl that inspired me because we could have this beautiful business model but if the food sucked, it would mean nothing. My mom used to make this bowl for all of my college friends at Berea and they loved it.”

Pinnacle: What was your major at Berea and how do you think that ties into the work you do at Noodle Nirvana?
Suramek: “My undergraduate degree from Berea was in psychology. I wanted to be a therapist or work in non-profit advocacy public service role. I think my time at Berea really instilled that service ethic, it was the spark that helped guide me in everything that I did and every creative decision that I made, it had to be purposeful.”