LA Feast: Parks BBQ’s Chef, Jenee Kim, Shares a Legendary Recipe

Over the long (not long enough) weekend we caught up with Jenee Kim, Owner and Chef of LA’s Parks BBQ. Here she shares a little bit about her background and her favorite Korean BBQ recipe that’ll keep us grilling all summer long.

1.Hey Chef Jenee! Can you tell us about your background a little bit? Where did you grow up, fond memories of your childhood, things like that? 

I grew up in Seoul, Korea.  I would cook for my father when I was young and we would share the meals together.  I’ve always loved cooking and entertaining.  It is a great blessing to do what I love for a living.

2. What does it mean to be an Asian American today in your own words and what experiences really shaped your understanding of the latter?

There are so many merciless stereotypes alongside this narrative of making the dream work.  As an immigrant you have to prove yourself and work hard and persevere through all of life’s struggles.   

3. Can you recount for us the story of Parks BBQ — the beginnings, doubts, struggles, rewards etc.  What has your business taught you about yourself?

I opened Parks BBQ as a single mother so balancing work and kids was always a big challenge. When Parks BBQ first opened it was one of very few Korean BBQ restaurants, but now there are so many in town nowadays. The competition is always a challenge. 

Within the first couple of months, mad cow disease became a serious threat to the business but luckily Parks was able to survive. There were good times and there were hard times but never bad times. I believe difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations and that is also my story. Parks has received many rewards including:

  • 2016 City of Los Angeles – Immigrant Heritage Month
  • 2010 2nd Annual Korean BBQ Cookoff – Judge’s Pick
  • 2010 2nd Annual Korean BBQ Cookoff – Chef Ludo Lefebvre’s Pick
  • 2009 Michelin Recommended Restaurant
  • LA’s 75 Best Restaurant
  • Los Angeles Times Jonathan Gold’s 101 Best Restaurant
  • LA Weekly 99 Essential LA Restaurant
  • In Jenny Linford’s book, 1001 Restaurants You Must Experience Before You Die 

4. Korean BBQ vs. American BBQ – BBQ is this activity and pastime that brings everyone together.  For you is that the same concept behind opening up a Korean BBQ restaurant where things are done family style etc. What is it about food that allows people to come together?

The food is obviously different and the cooking and the eating styles are also different. 

But the idea of bringing people together is very similar. Friends and family gather around a table and grill the meat and share the dishes. There is a saying, people make friends by “breaking bread together.”  There is an assumption that when you sit down to eat with one another, you become closer.

5. Can you share with us a recipe that reflects most upon your journey so far as a chef and entrepreneur?

I would like to share a recipe of my favorite Korean dish. If you love meat and you love Korean food, you will definitely enjoy this dish.

Bulgogi

Marinade(for 1 pound of thinly sliced beef-brisket, rib eye, or chuck roll)

  • Sugar(3 Ts), 
  • Cooking Wine(3Ts)
  • Sesame Seed( 2Ts)
  • Soy Sauce(5 Ts)
  • Sesame Oil (3Ts)
  • Minced Garlic(1Ts)
  • Chopped Green Onion( 1Ts)
  • Black Pepper(1ts)
  • Water(3Ts)
  • Crushed pear(2Ts)
  • Onion purée(1Ts)

Marinade for 30 minutes

I recommend Bulgogi meat, available in any Korean market.  You can also substitute the meat with Galbi or Chicken.