Tell us about the latest menus andconcept behind Neta – what was your inspiration for some of the dishes?
Currently my inspiration for the dishes that I make is nature and what’s natural. I’ve been inspired by the season. Spring is a beautiful time of year with an abundance of fresh produce and ingredients, which I really want to showcase in the food. It’s a great time to cook.
What can guests expect at the restaurant?
To have a great time. We’re not about being pretentious. We want to provide people with great food in a fun environment. I want you to come in with your friends, have a great night. Talk, laugh, eat and watch us cook.
What would you say has inspired your cooking the most?
Being able to work alongside other great cooks. I’ve had the honor to work in some of the best kitchens in this city and with many great cooks who’ve mentored and taught me along the way. The comradery and the competition in the kitchen pushes me to try harder and be better.
What are your earliest memories of being interested in food?
My earliest memories of being interested in food was from watching my mom cook. I’m from a province in South Korea called Jeollanam-do, which is highly known for having the best food in the country and my mom was a great cook. I’m the youngest of three boys so I always tried to help my mom in the kitchen. She enjoyed my company but she didn’t think having her son in the kitchen was appropriate. I really enjoyed watching her work though. This may have unconsciously drove me to the kitchen as a professional.
Describe how you see your own culinary style and how it has evolved over the years…
I’m not sure what my culinary style is but I feel like the way that I’ve cooked and the knowledge that I’ve gained has changed the way that I move in the kitchen. I’ve been in this industry for a long time so I’ll say that I’ve gained a lot of confidence in my abilities and in the food that I create. Before it was all about creating beautiful food. Now it’s about running the kitchen.
What are your most indispensable ingredients when cooking at Neta?
Well this is Japanese-inspired cooking so my most indispensable ingredient is soy.
What would you say has been the most memorable moment in your culinary career so far?
My most memorable moment was cooking modern Korean fair for the UN. It’s a great experience cooking for such a diverse group of people and introducing new flavor profiles. I enjoyed having people try things that they’ve never eaten before and hearing that they loved it. I think that’s why cooking is so much fun. It can be a subtle layering of flavor or the exact opposite with bold combinations of flavors. You can try so many new things.
What restaurant is currently at the top of your list to dine at?
Currently at the top of the list is Jungsik. They do elevated Asian-inspired food that’s beautiful and delicious.
Find out more information about Neta and ChefSungchul here |www.netanyc.com