Won-on-Won

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Won-on-Won

Won Kim wears A LOT of hats. The homie is a heavy in the Chicago graffiti scene, he regularly hosts some of the city's biggest/best craft beer events, AND he's spent close to a decade working pop-ups & clandestine dinners. Won was recently given the keys to the kitchen at Kimski's, a Korean/Polish Street Food concept from the folks at Maria's. We sat down with Won during a prep shift at Flesh For Food HQ, to talk about his upcoming endeavors...

Icebreaker: Go-to item in your H.S. Cafeteria? 

I always loved the rectangular pizza. 

You've done all kinds of events, all over the city, for close to 10 years. What's your current take on the landscape for pop-ups/underground food culture? Who do you think is doing important work right now? How do you think it can improve? 

I think with the influx of new restaurants/bars that are opening, its crucial for "pop ups" and clubs to exist. It's the best way to test out a menu, and get a grip on what people honestly think of your food. It also helps you figure out the best method or procedure to serve/prep whatever food you're featuring. There's a whole new landscape with things that go "underground". It seems the term has gone a little haywire, considering nothing is really that mysterious or subterranean anymore. I can't keep up with who's doing what these days, especially when I have to focus on my own projects... you know? Flesh for Food has always done fun, unique things. My early training came from former X-Marx (which is now Fat Rice), they're a great example of a crew that started out as a supper club, and has gone on to do big things in Chicago. I love what the Garage is doing in the West Loop, supplying a full on kitchen for you to run a real service out of. They also provide a great platform for you to try anything you want within the means of the venue. 

You've got a Ko-Po concept in the works with Ed Marszewski, how did you get to that role? What are you most excited about cooking in your new kitchen? 

Maria Packaged Goods has always ran a Monday night Ko-Po special. Polish sausages with regular jarred kimchi. What started as a Monday night special for its patrons, ran its own course and turned into guest chefs making sausages & kimchi in the most causal setting, feeding guests for fun. The idea came from a collaboration and yearning for something new, combined with our love for anything in meat tube form and fermenting cabbage. I'm most excited to be part of creating a new landscape, in an area that has been overlooked for years. Bridgeport is up and coming, it's prime time for all things creative and different. The 'hood is unique, and on the cusp of great things... the way Logan Square was 10 years ago. 

Quickfire Question: The dudes at The Radler play a game where you"re given a team of 3 chefs, and you have to decide which chef will work expo/line/prep in your kitchen. Our surprise 3 for you are: Mario Batali, Action Bronson, Brian Fisher. 

Brian Fisher on the line because he's the youngest and dude is a beast. Mario Batali for prep because he's most experienced, knows his shit, and would be responsible for the taste of the place. Action on expo just because dude is a rapper and knows to project. 

Final question: You're not new to the scene in Chicago, but you are new to having your own kitchen. What excites you most about your new role? Does anything frighten you? What will your mark/contribution to the food-scape be? 

I think the scariest thing is failure, people not liking your food, low sales and pretty typical things that all new restaurants/current restaurants are afraid of. The privilege of having something that's mine -and being able to share- is exciting. I don't know if I'll contribute anything to what's already been established in our food centered city, I really just hope to make people happy and full.

 

 

 

 

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Back In The Day

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Back In The Day

When I was a Young Skillet, my old man used to torture me with tales from his days in the old Catholic Schools, and mean streets of Chicago. He constantly reminded me about the priests & nuns, "...they hit me harder than your grandfather, and they used the METAL side of the ruler!" He never stopped with the stories about playing with Frank Nitti's kids, or learning to hustle pool from Willie Mosconi. He also never let me forget that he bought the house we were living in BEFORE his 19th birthday. Every adult has an encyclopedia of stories that go this way. 

These exaggerated allegories aren't limited to overworked parents & the elderly. The current class of leading chefs are quick to attest: "Things have changed, these young cooks SUCK." What is it about the incoming class of future chefs that sucks so bad? Are their lives/training too easy? What has them convinced that a meteoric rise to culinary stardom takes a little longer than Minute Rice does to cook? The answer most of us old folks have accepted is this:

Presently, the majority of young cooks are a litter of runts & softies, that had their nuts clipped.  

Western culture is obsessed with an easy way out. Young chefs included. For every Instagram post I see of a renegade barbarian with a pig-on-a-cross, I hear a dozen stories from a friend who can't keep his line properly staffed. The sad truth is that the majority of "chefs" that are coming for our plates -and dollars- would sooner vac/seal/sear a protein or vegetable, than spend an afternoon in front of a fire, working with flame & ash to create something truly magical. Let's be honest, there's a certain relief that comes with dropping your food off at the spa for a Sous-Vide treatment, and getting on with your prep. I'd be lying if I didn't admit to employing a kitchen hack or two in my day. What we're witnessing here is akin to Kali Yuga, aka The Dark Age, aka a time when energy is given to improving tools & leisure time, instead of bettering ourselves. 

Let's wrap this one up, before I turn this blog into a church. Veteran cooks and older chefs, love to chew the fat. We complain about how bad things have gotten, brag about our time in the trenches... and wash it all down with a drink. If change is required in our culture, where does it start? 

This is an important conversation, let's keep it going. Send us a story/threat/promise about how to improve the grim forecast hanging over the heads of young cooks & newbie chefs. We'll be accepting/reading submissions through November, and we'll have a fresh blog ready right around the time you're going into a food coma from that Deep Fried Turkey. 

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Walking On Fire

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Walking On Fire

When we came up with the title "Walking on Fire" for the next blog, we decided to put out a call for submissions. We wanted to avoid regaling you with a self-congratulating/indulgent yarn from Drew's checkered past, so we asked our industry friends to chime in with tales from the trenches. We were hoping for a steamy vignette with sex appeal, kitchen swagger, and maybe a shred of enlightenment. Surprisingly, none stories given.

Maybe it's not that surprising. We're new to the blog game, and it isn't like there's an outrageous shortage of war stories out there. Maybe people have had enough of that dish.? Anyway, the blog goes on. We decided to recall our first Pig Roast, with Ed Marszewski (Maria's/Marz Brewing) and his Mash Tun crew.

When Ed asked us to roast a pig for him and like FIVE HUNDRED of his closest friends, we couldn't turn him down. He had a La Caja China for us to borrow, his event was in the loading dock of Bridgeport Arts Center, some of the best beer being brewed in our city was gonna be on draft... He even hired a stepping crew from a nearby high school, to help close out the night. We buckled up for a bizarre ride, and set course for our first Pig Roast.

After Amanda took a moment to digest the fact that we were gonna have a dead animal in our house for a couple days, we called Nate & Lou Ann Robinson (Jake's Country Meats) to request our pig. We ended up with a fantastic beast. The pig weighed roughly 100 pounds. It had a long, curly tail and big, floppy ears. It also had a body that we had no idea was going to arrive frozen. You ever try to defrost/brine a pig? In your house?  In late Fall? When overnight temperatures are nearly freezing? In under 48 hours? It's an adventure. 

On the day of Mash Tun Festival, Amanda packed our dead friend into the CR-V and took him on a fully heated tour of Bridgeport. She rushed him back as soon as his hams were soft enough to spread, and we rubbed him down with  Salt/Pepper/Dark Brown Sugar. According to the instructions painted on the box, we popped him in with barely enough time to have him ready for the enormous crowd we were expecting.

We'll keep the rest of it short. The pig was an absolute hit. We cut, carved and sold the whole thing... in under 90 minutes. If we overlook the impatient asshole that was eating ribs off the end of our table, the roast was one for the ages. But what about everything that we did leading up to it? Was THAT a success, or did we honestly get by on good fortune & beginner's luck? We started having informal critiques after each roast. So far, the critiques have helped us make sure we aren't schlepping/thawing another pig on the day of an event.

Whenever we sit down for a shift beer and a work chat, we always talk about whether or not we had enough coal... if we prepared enough side dishes... or if we brought enough cutlery. We research more efficient coolers, and decide if shelling out some extra cash will save us money on ice/effort down the road. We continue to bring focus to these issues after every event, because we know that mastering these basics will keep us from getting caught with our pants down, and lead us to better barbecues.

So there it is... a short war story, with a lesson learned. Not sure how much of a "steamy vignette" it was, but we nailed "shred of enlightenment". 

 

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Holy Shit. It's September.

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Holy Shit. It's September.

In a little less than an hour, we'll be done with August, and all up in September. As we make the move from Summer to Fall, and prepare to hibernate through Winter... there's still SOOO much to do. While we spend the next month wrapping up this last string of events, we're remembering an insane season of Pig Roasts & Pop-Ups.

The 2015 season started in April. Easily a month earlier than usual, it was a sign. We kicked things off with a TGIF BBQ at The Salsa Truck. Dan Salls & his crew hosted us for Fried Chicken Lunch, and Smoked Brisket Dinner. Our friends Chef Patty (Bang Bang) and Chef Won Kim (Kimski's) stopped by for dinner service, and helped with plating/crushing strong whiskey drinks in the kitchen. We rounded out the rest of the month with an appearance at a little event called Baconfest, and our second SIdeyard Supper at Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits.

May & June were full of activity. We booked a Pig Roast for over 200 people, kicked off our Beer-B-Q series with Small Bar, and traveled to Madison, WI to break in our La Caja China with Michael Signorelli (Underground Butcher). We linked up with the homies at TDS to bring back Sunday Smokehaus. We even picked up a few nights on the Emporium Food Truck for shits & giggles. Right in the middle of all this, we got a call from the West Coast... and accepted an invitation to participate in Outstanding In the Field, with Chef Timothy Wastell at Big Table Farm. NBD, right.? We've got a few photos from the event here.

Everything after Oregon has gone by in a blinding daze. We wrapped up Beer-B-Q yesterday, this Sunday could be the last Smokehaus for the season, these last few events are the remaining embers from an outrageous bonfire we lit back in April.

Cheers to everyone that made time to kick it with us this Summer. If you haven't gotten out to see us, check our calendar for a list of remaining events, and catch us before we doze off for the winter.

 

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