Celebrity Chef Judy Joo is Back in Hong Kong - Hashtag Legend

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Celebrity Chef Judy Joo is Back in Hong Kong

Sep 06, 2017

Celebrity chef Judy Joo

Celebrity chef Judy Joo is in town this week for a collaborative, six-course meal of modern Korean at Jinjuu Hong Kong, which starts tonight. Working with Sook founder Mina Park, the two chefs have come up with a menu of easily the best Korean dishes in the city, officially re-opening the restaurant after it's redesign. 

Chef Joo is one of those people who just somehow manages to do it all, and do it well. The Columbia University graduate gave up a career in finance to pursue her culinary passions, swapping Morgan Stanley for the French Culinary Institute— not bad, right? She caught the public's attention when she won Britain's Iron chef, becoming the first and only female chef with the title in the country. Today, the globe-trotting American hosts her own cooking show, Korean Made Simple, and appears regularly on other shows as both a guest and as a judge. She’s also published a cook book, and has two of her own restaurants, Jinjuu London and Jinjuu Hong Kong. We spoke to her ahead of this week’s dinner to get her opinion on dining faux pas and the importance of innovation.

We’re looking forward to your collaboration with Mina Park of Sook next week, how did you two first meet, and what was this process like?

We actually have not met in person, but I heard what Mina was doing in Hong Kong, and thought it would be a fun collaboration: two Korean female chefs, in Hong Kong, doing something together. The process was done via many Skype calls, emails and voice-calls. Of course, we have also done many rounds of food tasting to ensure the food is spot-on.

What is the difference between modern and traditional Korean?

My take on modern Korean is really just taking some classic dishes or flavours and giving them a contemporary twist, whether it is by incorporating a new flavour, technique, or simply presentation. Food evolves so quickly as well— today’s invention become tomorrow’s tradition. 

How do you feel Korean cuisine is represented on an international level?

Korean food is gaining a lot of momentum in the States, however, in Europe it still has far to go. It is under represented in many areas of the world and somewhat of an unsung hero.  I think that Korea as a country just has marketed their culture very poorly.  But, people in the West are slowing starting to take notice and the Hallyu, “Korean Wave”, is surely starting to hit the rest of the world. Kimchi in particular is growing in popularity and showing up on menus globally. 

You’ve worked for or with some of the best chefs in the world, like Gordon Ramsay, Heston Blumenthal and Thomas Keller – did those chefs give you any advice that’s stuck with you?

None of these Chefs were really in the kitchen anymore when I was there, so I didn’t really have any quality time with them. I will say though, that Thomas Keller in particular is such an inspiration. His attention to detail and commitment is awe inspiring. 

How did a Korean-American, living in London end up opening a restaurant in Hong Kong?

Through a bit of luck and serendipity.  Bruce Rockowitz’s daughter, Rachel, dined at Jinjuu in London and loved it so much that she decided to throw her birthday party there. Coco and Bruce flew in for it and Coco fell in love with Jinjuu. One thing led to the next and we opened six months later in Lan Kwai Fong.

Is it important for food to modernise, and do you feel like the traditions will ever be lost?

All food evolves in every country. Tradition will always be passed down through generations, and some things will become obsolete over time. Even new developments in technology change the way we eat. Look at the impact sous vide has had on the culinary scene, or the impact silicon has had on the pastry field. More and more has become possible, and now with 3D food printing being developed, there’s only more to come.Are there any faux-pas we need to be aware of when eating a Korean meal?As a foreigner, you are usually excused from any expectation of knowing about social graces. But you should wait for the head of the table to start eating, and always pour drinks with two hands for your elders and look away when you drink as a sign of respect. 

How do you feel about the Michelin Guide and the World’s Best awards? Do you think they’re still relevant?

These awards will always have their place, but unfortunately have become hugely political, as with any awards ceremony.  They are still relevant, but I find that they are not always accurate.

What would your dream meal be, who would you share it with and why?

Dream meal is never ending plates of caviar and white truffles from Alba. I would share this with my dear friends and family— the best meals taste even better when you share it with loved ones.

What are the best, must-have dishes on the new menu?

The Hanwoo Beef is fantastic and quite special.  I also like the Nangmyeong Noodles— ice cold noodles with seared beef and a spicy broth. The quinoa and broccoli salad is very tasty as well— and healthy!

The exclusive four-hands menu is available 6-7 September, for HK$888 + 10%. A wine and cocktail pairing is also available, and 10 per cent of the proceeds will be donated to Mother’s Choice, a charity that offers support to children without families and pregnant teenagers. If you miss out on this meal, Joo will also be hosting a private dinner on 14 September, details here.

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Sarah Engstrand