1) Where are you originally from and how long have you lived in the Triangle area?
I was born in South Korea, adopted at 1 year, grew up near Detroit Michigan. Moved to Raleigh when I was 20 in 1997.
2) Do you feel as though this region has become more diverse in the last 10 years?
Yes, though I feel we are just touching the surface.
3) With an influx of such a variety of cultures and ethnicity to this area do you think this may pose a threat to Southern traditions?
I do think that Southern traditions may be threatened a bit, but I also feel that this is part of what happens with change and progress. I think this region can honor Southern tradition while embracing new cultural influences.
4) Is it important to try to protect Southern traditions or do we just roll with the changes without trying to preserve them?
Personally I enjoy incorporating southern tradition in my food and life. But I also think it’s a great thing to be open to new ways, new traditions and appreciating the traditions of other cultures.
5) Do you think of food as a form of communications?
Definitely. Through food we can express love & appreciation. We can teach and inspire. We can honor the South, honor farmers and honor our homeland.
6) Is there a dish that you’ve made or make that sort of sums up your style or your background?
I guess a signature dish perhaps that really gives people a glimpse of your personality. In some ways I am still figuring out “who I am”. But yes, a summer sweet corn puree speckled with fresh hot chilies, served with NC fish and topped with a kimchi cucumber salad. It says simple, flavorful, ultra fresh and paying tribute to the regions’ food growing seasonality and my Korean heritage. I love spiciness in my food. Another dish is our signature bibimbap rice bowl. It is very Korean, but non-traditional because we use seasonal toppings. In the summer we use squash and beans. In the winter we use rutabaga and sweet potato.
7) What would you consider your “soul food”? What type of food really speaks to you or comforts you or is a strong food memory that can make you reminisce whenever you enjoy that dish?
cliché, I know, but… chicken soup. It’s what my mom made. And homemade cinnamon rolls. My mom baked cinnamon rolls to raise money to adopt my younger brother.
8) Sometimes people will simplify or strip down a recipe or a menu in order to appeal to a particular clientele. I think this can be a very tricky balance. Has there ever been a time that you’ve felt this pressure in order to be more marketable?
I think there is consistently pressure in this area. Or there can be if you allow it. The best thing we can do is focus on what tastes good and what our core mission is.
9) Is there a particular food, ingredient or dish that you really love that you’ve either tried to put on your menu or are too hesitant to put on your menu because you don’t think that your guests are ready for?
Not that it can think of. I’m willing to put something on the menu if I love it or am really passionate about it.
10) Sometimes there’s a learning curve that has to occur in order to slowly gain acceptance with customers are there ways that you’ve tried to subtly educate?
Yes, educating our customers is ongoing. At Kimbap in particular, we are often introducing Korean food to our guests for the first time. On the other hand, there is also quite a bit of education related to our fresh/local “Korean inspired” menu, because some guests have a pre-set expectation of “authentic” Korean and are surprised when they arrive.
11) Which artist will always show up on your soundtrack?
Maybe a little Otis Redding