What are your earliest memories of being interested in food?
My home as a child was always full of lots of food. I watched my mother cooking from a very early age and loved helping her cook. I started to cook in earnest by myself while in High School, and first began wanting pursue cooking professionally while studying abroad in the Netherlands – I cooked to help myself beat homesickness!
What would you say has inspired your cooking the most?
I gain inspiration from all areas of my life, both mundane and special – when I travel abroad, when I’m grocery shopping, when I visit art exhibitions …
Describe your culinary style…
I reinterpret my country’s cuisine by using traditional Korean ingredients and cooking methods paired with contemporary plating styles and modern colors.
What would you say is the main focus/concept for the restaurant?
Modern, new Korean cuisine in a laid-back, light atmosphere.
What do you think makes a restaurant successful?
Four things. Honesty – using only the freshest of ingredients. Kindness – my number one rule is always to treat my customers well. Sincerity – aside from allocated holidays, I’ve not taken a day off in nine years! Memory – I remember the favorite dishes of all of my regular customers. It’s important, I think.
What are your most indispensable ingredients?
Our in-house made ‘doenjang’ (fermented soybean paste) and ‘ganjang’ (fermented soybean sauce). Three year-old gray salt.
What kind of experience do you aim to give guests at your restaurant?
An experience that makes them want to return with friends or loved ones.
What would you say has been the most memorable moment in your culinary career so far?
The day my first cook book – ‘Four seasons of Korean cooking’ – was published. Also, the time a table who had eaten dinner at Min’s Kitchen came back the very next lunchtime together to eat again. That was pretty special!
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self, starting out a career in the world of food?
Don’t be deterred by slumps or down times; they will come and go. Also, never lose sight of your motivation, or your modesty.
What’s next for you/what projects do you have lined up?
I’d like to expand beyond Korea – launching Min’s Kitchen elsewhere, outside of the peninsula.
What is your guilty pleasure?
I love to get lost in Korea’s local markets, browsing and trying ingredients, and talking with the tradespeople there.
What restaurant is currently at the top of your list to dine at?
Actually – the tiny ‘Kalguksu’ (wheat flour noodle soup) restaurant right opposite Min’s Kitchen!
Find out more about Min-ji and Min’s Kitchen here…