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Ella Light, creative social and content manager at wagamama

2 nations’ flavours collide inside wagamama’s centre of innovation

The new Chicken Katsu Pie is a product of this centre of innovation.

When wagamama first collaborated with Willy’s Pies in November last year, they wanted to challenge themselves by creating something unexpected.
 
The brand wanted to combine a well-known British favourite (pies) with Japanese cuisine.

“We loved the idea of rolling out a fusion of two of the nations’ favourite dishes, chicken katsu and pie – which formed the Chicken Katsu Pie,” Ella Light, creative social and content manager at wagamama said.

Centred around wagamama’s katsu sauce, Willy’s Pies packaged it within their well-known flaky, indulgent pastry. Inside, the pie is filled with succulent chicken and fresh vegetables. The pie is paired with wagamama’s katsu side salad and pink pickles.

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According to wagamama, they had been fans of Willy’s Pies since it debuted in 2020.

“Willy is an innovator in his field, which is something that we are endlessly inspired by. We take this creative energy and put it in everything that we do, from collaborations to internal initiatives like Wok Stars to our own chefs,” Ella explained.

This type of innovation was only made possible through wagamama’s Noodle Lab in Soho, the brand’s centre for innovation which reopened in July last year.

Steve Mangleshot, the global executive chef of wagamama, spent a lot of time with Will Lewis, the creator of Willy’s Pies. Wagamama then tested the recipe in different test sites, of which Noodle Lab plays an important part before launching it to a bigger audience.

wagamama’s Noodle Lab

The Noodle Lab was first opened in Soho’s Dean Street in 2017. Its main purpose was to test new food and drink concepts, led by wagamama’s Global Executive Chef Steve Mangleshot. In 2021, it was moved to Old Street but returned to Soho in 2023, with the Old Street restaurant continuing to trade as a normal restaurant.

Ella describes the Noodle Lab, as their chef’s playground, where they can test and trial new innovative dishes.

“[The Noodle Lab] gives us a way to explore different avenues and foods that our guests wouldn’t normally expect when they come to wagamama, which is why it was the right home to launch the Willy’s Pies collaboration in November 2023,” Ella said.

The testing site also lets wagamama’s chefs collaborate with Steve to build and showcase their skills in creating innovative and groundbreaking dishes.

Some dishes that were tested previously at the Noodle Lab were katsu curry ice cream, sweet potato fries with Korean sauce, corn dogs, and vegan katsu curry.

For the future, Ella said they have some exciting plans lined up.

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