How did you get started?
I started my chef career when I was 26. I went to college to study industrial engineering, found out that it was not working out for me, so I joined the navy for two and half years as national service in Korea, where I occasionally helped my seniors to prepare the meals for team. After Navy, by my mother’s recommendation, I went to pastry institutes where I had great fun learning to make sweets, bread, pastry etc. What I most enjoying was feeling with all my sense! Nose, hands, eyes and taste… I could feel this through my whole body which I never felt while I was studying industrial engineering.
I Wanted to learn more about food in Europe, so I moved to the UK and settled until today.
My first job was at Glasgow, in a hotel restaurant in the city centre. Not long after working there, chef recommend me to go down to London to see more structured professional kitchen to accelerated my skills and knowledge. I got the job at my first Michellin star restaurant at the Orrery. It was very hard but I could see myself progressing, becoming more confident with improving skill & knowledge. I was really pleased to find myself working with a team that actually maked me push myself to become better. Then I realised that having a job as a chef is not just about cooking, it is about me doing what I am really into, even obsessed with, and can actually be good at something and I told myself, this is what I have to do for my life. For about the first three years of my chefs career, my life was just about cooking. Eat, buy books and work, don’t remember anything else I did apart from working. I moved to Galvin at Gindows as a CDP when the Galvin brothers opened the restaurant in 2006, since then I was here everyday till now.
What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?
Be sure to find potential within the team who actually run the place. We chefs are craftman, it needs discipline, time and sacrifice of some of your life to achieve something special. I call it quality ; not only for your product, but for yourself as well. It is my job and my main focus to develop & motivate the team to deliver that quality with their real heart and respect. That is the base of our good business plan. With that solid foundation, you know you have a confidence to attack. Respect & looking after your team is first on my list and will helping any business succeed.
Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years time?
I would say, it is more like focusing on consistency and standards as well as seeing a gradual growth of our restaurant & bar business. Galvin at Windows is one of not many restaurant that can handle high quality food with massive numbers & functions. It is like a well oiled machine that can run at a couple of hundred miles per hour and you can’t see when it is going to stop. It has been a hard and long jurney for us to get to this stage, we have been through really hard times in order to maintain our consistency of quality. We have continual training so that everyone can take ownership, care and have a level of knowledge required to be in control. Up to date, we have improved like never been seen before with a really strong team on front of house and in the kitchen. We understand how to become flexible to deliver quality, and know how to maintain it. It is all about organisation, planning and following up each other to make sure everyone is running at their best. We just need to carry on in this way without fail, and always be on the lookout for gaps for improvement.
If you could only have one of your own recipes, what would it be & why?
It is Korean marinated pork with fermented soy bean & chilli paste. It is definitely not a French dish but the recipe is very versatile that will work with any type of meat, fish and also complements really well with vegetables. We have used this a lot along with our basic French cooking method to give extra depth and flavour to the dish. Everyone loves it.
You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?
That's a ery hard question. It would either be my wife or mother. I probably have to say it would be my mother. She is the person put me on the path of a chef's life which I enjoy with all my heart. I have been in London for about 16 years now and my mother has never has any issues about my job, choices and decisions about being a chef. She is probably the one pushing me to do more. I have no brothers and sisters and father passed away a while ago and since then my mother she was been always been alone but she has never said anything negative, just been as supportive as possible. My mum definitely needs to be with me at my last meal.
Although I am a chef, she doesn’t trust me how I want to cook. I would probably be better leaving the cooking to her and she would prepare a proper authentic Korean meal that I know I will enjoy.