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.