Who is Chef Julie Yoon? She's a classically French trained Korean American chef from NYC who just relocated to the sunny state of California and loving it there! She's catering for baby showers, bridal showers and cocktail parties, but to try some of her foods tonight, follow her blog and try her recipes. My favorite is her pasta with creamy spinach sauce and bacon. Anything with bacon is awesome, but she also has an array of healthy foods without the cream and bacon - just in time for the summer bikini season.Take a look at her blog and get to know a little more about Chef Julie Yoon in our exclusive interview below. Bon Appetite!
All Photos by: Joe Yoon Studios
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Newtown, Pennsylvania with my mom, dad and older sister, Christina. Yoon is my married last name, but I used to be a Choi. Most of my days were spent at school, church, summer school, Saturday school, our parents' store, playing piano, playing violin and doing every other Korean stereotypical activity.
How was it growing up as a Korean American girl? The good and the bad? Didn't notice a difference?
I used to think it was all bad. My school and town wasn't very diverse at the time so I grew up with a chip on my shoulder. I remember "culture day" was a bust when I brought in "jap chae" and "mandoo," which is of course just noodles and dumplings, that my parents made and none of my classmates would eat it because they were afraid they’d be eating some kind of foreign meat or intestine. Only my teachers ate the food and loved it. Now I am thankful that I'm Korean. It really influences my cuisine and who i am in general in a positive way.
What is your favorite childhood memory?
In elementary school, my mom decided to come to my school with me after work for a mother-daughter pumpkin painting festival. I knew she was uncomfortable because she couldn't speak English well and she was exhausted from work, but she knew I really wanted to go so she went. She spent the night eating popcorn, drinking hot apple cider, chatting with my friend's mom in her broken English and painting pumpkins. It meant so much to me that I still remember what her pumpkin looked like. It was a girl pumpkin with big eyes, long eyelashes and braided hair.
Tell us a little on how you decided to become a chef. What was the defining moment for you to go to culinary school?
I always naturally loved food and cooking and watching the Food Network. The defining moment came when I was working as a fashion designer in New York, but was pretty unhappy. My sister told me about an open house for a culinary school in Soho. I decided to go with her and became so inspired by the chef there who talked about how she was in fashion design but hated it and decided to go into culinary school and now loves what she does. Before I knew it, I had applied for a loan, quit my fashion job, applied for another job at a bakery and then attended culinary school at nights.
What were you doing in fashion? Which school did you go to - then who were you working for? doing? Designing?
I attended Drexel University in Philadelphia, which is an engineering school, but they also had a good fashion design program! I applied for the major as a joke. There was a check box next to Fashion Design on the application and I thought, “hey... I like to draw. I like clothes.” So I checked it. When they became interested in me and wanted an interview, I panicked and pulled together a portfolio with my high school art teacher after school drawing teapots and boxes. To my surprise, I got accepted with a scholarship! By the time I graduated, I had won the NAMSB, a national award for menswear design and got a job at Elie Tahari for women’s suits. From there, I went on to work for a company called Notations working at first as an assistant technical designer, doing sample approvals with factories in India, Korea and China. Then I moved on to be an assistant fashion designer for the private label division.
What is your favorite comfort food - that you'll cook for yourself?
"Kimchi jigae,” or kimchi stew with tofu. Whenever if for some reason I don't eat a drop of Korean food for about 3-4 days in a row, at that point, this is all I crave and I have to make a big pot of it. And then I eat it for 3-4 days in a row.
What kinds of foods can you make?
I can cook French, Italian, American and Korean, but I’m always studying up on other cuisines of the world so I can grow as a chef. I attended a French culinary school so I'm classically trained. After graduating, I apprenticed under a celebrity chef on an Italian cooking TV show and picked up lots of tips. Now I tend to make a lot of fusion food.
What is your most popular dish? Can you share the recipe with us?
Chicken Soba Noodle Salad because it's super easy. I did a live demonstration with this recipe for a recent event and received such positive feedback from everyone. Sorry, I don't have a picture of this dish, but trust me, it's so good and simple. My one friend told me her husband went back and got seconds and then thirds of this dish when she prepared it for him at home.
Recipe | Chicken Soba Noodle Salad
This crunchy cold noodle salad is a delight to eat in the spring or summer time when you don't feel like slaving over a hot stove.
Soba noodles (as little or as much as you want to eat)
1 cup shredded rotisserie chicken
1 carrot, peeled and then shaved into thin ribbons with a vegetable peeler
1 cup shredded red cabbage
3 scallions, the green parts only, cut into thin strips
Toasted sesame seeds for garnish
For the sauce:
2 Tablespoons peanut butter
2 limes, juiced
2 Tablespoons sesame oil
2 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons peeled and minced ginger
2 cloves of garlic minced
1. Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl and microwave for 1 minute. Let it cool to room temperature.
2. Boil the noodles until they are al dente and drain. Rinse in cold water. Set aside.
3. Combine all the noodles, chicken and vegetables together. Pour as little or as much of the cooled sauce as you want on top and mix well. Using your hand in a plastic disposable kitchen glove works best to mix everything together. Eat at room temperature or cold.
I see that you offer cooking classes?! What made you consider doing this?
It started out with friends asking me cooking questions here and there. Then I started my blog and started giving away free tips and original recipes that I developed. I got good feed back from that and then I realized that I really enjoyed teaching others how to cook and explaining why you do something or the science behind a method. I love to make cooking less intimidating and more approachable to everyone. I truly have a passion for that.
Do you want to work or have your own restaurant? If yes, What would be on the menu?
I don't think I'd want my own restaurant, but I do day dream every now and then about my own cafe because I love coffee and espresso drinks. I would serve finger foods and small bites, similar to what I make when I cater.
I see that you're married. How is your husband in supporting you and your career?
He's my number one fan. He helps promote my business through his graphic design and marketing skills. He tries to help me in any way he can. In fact, he's also the photographer, designer, dishwasher, vegetable peeler, box-lifter, food-transporter etc. I couldn't do all that I do without him.
You moved to CA from the East Coast? What made you decide to make such a big move?
We just wanted a change and to be somewhere we both agreed upon to plant our roots. After our apartment lease was up, we decided on a huge change and drove cross-country with all our stuff in a large moving van with car attached. I don't recommend that. It was terrible and tiring! But the payoff was arriving in beautiful sunny California and we love it here.
How do you want to get your name known throughout the west coast?
I plan to make my name known through KoKo Living. I'm just kidding. I think I've slowly been getting there through job after job and word of mouth. I may start posting cooking videos on youtube as well.
How is life in California?
The people are nice here and it fits my general personality and attitude because I'm pretty laid back by nature. I'm getting spoiled by the great weather. It would be nicer if my family was here.
What is your favorite Movie? Color?
Movie: "The Devil Wears Prada" or "Sex and the City"
Color: Green, especially lime or light green
Do you cater for Weddings, Events, etc? How can someone contact you?
I did a cocktail hour only for a wedding recently, but I try to stay with smaller parties as much as possible such as baby showers, bridal showers, birthday parties etc. It's much more my style because I can spend more time being creative and less time mass-producing. You can contact me through my website: http://chefjulieyoon.com
Photos by: Joe Yoon Studios of Crystals Birthday Party
What was your most favorite catering experience?
I think it was the first one I did in California for a friend's baby shower because it gave me a chance to show my capabilities and develop my reputation for the first time to a brand new group of people. They all knew I was a chef, but didn't know what my style was or how my food tasted like until that day. I felt like it was a land mark for me being able to truly establish myself in California. It slowly grew from there.
Do chefs really cook yummy foods when they are alone? Do you experiment on new recipes?
Sometimes I do just for fun or because I'm craving something in particular. For instance, today I just made meatballs and marinara sauce from scratch because I felt like eating a meatball sub. However, there are times where my husband is eating cereal or bread with jam and I'm scurrying around cooking for other people. Other times I just make easy food, but I tend to stay away from instant or frozen food. I never cook the day after a big event. It's our unspoken understood rule.
What is your favorite Korean food?
“Kalbi.” I just love it, probably because I think it's the dish my mom makes the best. But I think I'm a Kalbi snob. I need it to be really well seasoned and marinated. I don't like Kalbi that tastes bland, or under-seasoned because then I won't eat it.
What was the most delicious thing you've ever eaten? Where was it?
The miso glazed Chilean sea bass at the P.O.D in Philadephia, when I was in college. The sword fish at the Pineapple Grill in Maui on my honeymoon. In both cases, I couldn't believe how unbelievably super moist, juicy, tender, buttery and flavorful the fish was. I aspire to cook like that.
Thank you Julie for a fantastic interview! We hope to feature more of your recipes here on KOKOLiving.com.
Visit Chef Julie Yoon at www.ChefJulieYoon.com to see more photos, get recipes and to contact her for your next event. Leave a comment for her here too!