Episode 20: Chul Kim + Bringing Korean Food Out of K-Town
Chul Kim, owner of Little Dokebi and Dokebi Bar & Grill in Brooklyn, talked to us this week about Korean cuisine in America, why it took so long to get noticed outside of Korea Town (K-Town), and his thoughts on the current state of the restaurant business.
First, your hosts ask each other what's the best thing they ate this past week. We had a good week for food--we both had some of our favorite meals! Lynda talks about the amazing egg and cheese bagel sandwich she had at Frankel's Delicatessen and Iris had a banging eggplant and minced pork for staff meal.
We then turn the conversation to Chul Kim. Chul talks a bit about his career change from banking to the restaurant industry, how he chose food over a career in fashion, and his thought process for this big life decision.
We then briefly discuss Korean immigration to the U.S. and K-Town culture. Chul then tells us about opening Little Dokebi, from selecting the perfect location to building the space to the story behind the name Little Dokebi ('dokebi' is a devil-like creature in Korean mythology and Chul's nickname growing up).
Next, Lynda asks about the menu at Little Dokebi. He tells us his inspirations include popular Korean dishes, his mom's cooking, and his favorite Korean foods. Chul then admits he initially wasn't too educated about where food comes from before opening Little Dokebi. He was influenced by contemporaries in the neighborhood who were doing farm-to-table cuisine and started trying to source the best ingredients possible, even asking farmers to grow Korean produce.
He then talks about public relations and marketing in the restaurant business, and how he's never quite believed in paying someone else to promote your restaurant. The first "PR" he did was giving unsold food to people living and working in the neighborhood. Aspiring restaurant owners, make sure to listen to this part because Chul tells us about what he thinks is a great strategy for longevity when opening a restaurant!
24:30 "In the same way that I think you want to grow your food organically, I think sometimes growing your business that way is a much healthier way to sustain a business." - Chul Kim on growing your business organically vs. paying PR companies to do it for you.
Chul also tells us about how he ended up opening a kimchi factory to supply his two restaurants, and now Murray's Cheese too! Finally, he tells us what his hopes are for Korean food now that it has left K-Town, and his concerns too.
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