trio of Korean American chefs

So you’re familiar with David Chang of the NYC Momofuku empire (I’m dying to try the crack pie), Roy Choi of Kogi truck, and Sang Yoon of Father’s Office. How about Edward Lee, Judy Joo, and Corey Lee? These rising chefs are gaining momentum as they infuse familiar Korean and Asian flavors with classical techniques and traditions. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that as Korean food (beyond galbi and bibimbap) are gaining traction in our food (fad) obsessed society, these chefs are gaining recognition for their innovative fusion. If I had a chance to talk to these chefs in person, I’d love to know what their parents think about their choice to pursue a culinary career 🙂 Check out the profiles below.
EDWARD LEE (pictured top left)
Executive chef/partner of 610 Magnolia in Louisville, KY
grew up in: Brooklyn, NY
age: 39
serendipity: stumbled upon 610 Magnolia while in town for the Kentucky Derby in 2003. The following year, he became co-partner and executive chef.
accolades: 2011 finalist for the Best Chef Award Southeast by the James Beard Foundation; beat out Iron Chef Jose Garces in 2010 (challenge: beef cheek and tongue).
true to his roots: he slathers black barbeque sauce on pork and bison, a riff on galbi sauce.
why he wants to win Top Chef: prove to his parents that cooking is a legitimate profession.
serving up: striped bass in kimchi broth, lamb loin with goat rillettes, bison carpaccio with lamb prosciutto

Photo from 610 Magnolia’s website

COREY LEE (pictured top right)
Executive chef of Benu in San Francisco
grew up in: Manhattan, Connecticut, and New Jersey
age: 33
experience: he’s learned from culinary masters including Gordon Ramsay and Thomas Keller and co-authored a cookbook with Keller on sous vide.
accolades: James Beard Award, received 2 Michelin stars for Benu.
bicultural influence: having come to the US when he was 12, “I was young, but still old enough to recognize that we ate differently from most people around us,” he says. “My understanding of food was about the critical role it plays in identity and culture. Food is more than sustenance and nutrition. It’s part of who you are.”

Photo from Benu’s website

JUDY JOO (pictured bottom left)
Executive chef of the Playboy Club, London
grew up in: New Jersey
career changer: She graduated from Columbia University with a degree in engineering and then worked in Wall Street as trader before attending the French Culinary Institute and working at Gordon Ramsey and other notable restaurants like The French Laundry.
no interview required: while dining at Gordon Ramsey, she introduced herself to the notorious chef and was hired, working in his kitchen for 2 years.
watch Judy on: the Next Iron Chef on the Food Network (also on Hulu) as a judge.

Photo captured from UK Iron Chef episode

5 thoughts on “trio of Korean American chefs

  1. Carolyn Jung

    I think most Asian-American chefs will tell you — and believe you me, I’ve asked a number of them about it — that their parents were initially not too pleased with their choice of becoming a chef. But that’s to be expected. In their parents’ generation, cooking was not a glamorous profession by any means. In fact, a restaurant job was often the only job a new immigrant could find. So, it makes sense that parents who lived through that themselves or watched their own parents toil so hard behind a hot line would want something more, something different for their own children or grandchildren. But I think if you ask any of those parents NOW if they are proud about what their sons and daughters have achieved as chefs, they would nod emphatically that they are.


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