Our interview with chef Kim continues as we look into his background in Korea, as well as his aspirations for the future. We also hear about his experience working for previous On the Line subject Amar Santana. Stay in the loop by reading Part One here, and get your heirloom tomato on tomorrow.
Hardest lesson you've learned:
Management. I wish I could just cook and make a special every day.
What would your last meal on earth be?
Korean food — specifically, seafood. Fish to start, then finish with barbecue pork belly with a little soju.
Who's your hero, culinary or otherwise?
Again, it has to be Thomas Keller.
Tell us about your food-service-industry background:
Initially, my parents didn't like the idea of me cooking, but they eventually respected my decision to pursue a career in it. In Seoul, Korea, I started working at West Lake Restaurant, working my way up from line cook to head chef. After receiving a degree in food and cooking science at Sunchon National University in South Korea, I left for the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park in New York. Prior to joining my first Charlie Palmer restaurant, I interned and worked at Gordon Ramsay in London, as well as Aureole Restaurant in NYC.
When I was hired at Charlie Palmer, [Charlie Palmer's then-executive chef] Amar Santana hated me when he met me. It's a funny story that everyone knows.
Where is your hometown? If you are from outside Orange County, what brought you here?
My hometown is Yeo-soo, Korea. And opening a new restaurant for Charlie Palmer brought me to Orange County.
Tell us about the recent fund-raiser you held:
It was called Flavors of OC, benefiting the American Liver Foundation. Held at the Fairmont Hotel, it's an annual event. A dozen restaurants hosted a five-course meal. We were cooking and plating outdoors, and it included a silent auction.
What makes your Sunday brunch stand out? I see there is a chicken-and-waffle selection.
I just changed the menu. Personally, I like the smoked sturgeon on eggs Benedict. It's something fun, different from other places.
Do you frequent any local restaurants, or are there any you've been wanting to check out?
Broadway by Amar Santana.
What dish would you tell newcomers to Charlie Palmer to try first?
Pork belly or heirloom-tomato salad.
What would you be doing if you weren't in this business?
I have never thought about that. Cooking Forever!
What advice do you have for those who might be thinking about a career in food?
Experiment a lot in the kitchen.
What do you see yourself doing in five years? Ten years?
Still cooking somewhere and teaching. When I was 20, it was my goal to teach after I was 45. I want to set up something local, community-oriented, where little kids can learn how to cook cakes and pasta, where they can have fun.