Since I am new to Mendoza, I thought it would be a good idea to provide some background. I was born in Seoul and from a very early age, my mother taught me to cook and to value fresh ingredients. After emigrating from Korea, we lived in Hawaii and some of my most fond memories are shopping with her in the Chinatown section of Honolulu, buying whole fish caught that very morning or spare ribs that she would cook for hours to bring out the best taste and flavors. My love of food and the simple act of creating a meal for my friends and family sustained me through my early career as a corporate banker in New York and Los Angeles.
Later, I decided to pursue my passion for cooking on a full time basis. I received my formal culinary education at the Sushi Chef Institute. I then studied under celebrity Chef Makota Okuwa (who has appeared 13 times on the Food Network’s hit television show, Iron Chef America) in Los Angeles. It was this experience and training, in one of the world’s culinary epicenters for fusion innovation, that helped developed my own version of Asian cuisine.
About the same time, I began visiting and exploring Argentina as a tourist. For several years, I would spend 2-3 weeks here and see different parts of the country. Argentina has an infectious energy that envelopes and excites me. And, I must admit, that each time I left I felt a certain degree of sadness. However, at the same time, I also felt this country was ready for a better selection and variety of Asian cuisine.
In 2010, I opened my first restaurant, Casa Mun, in the Palermo neighborhood of Buenos Aires. As I had suspected, Argentines, tourists, expats and the diplomatic community were hungry for Asian cuisine. Casa Mun became one of the most sought after reservations and consistently ranked in the top restaurants of Buenos Aires. We were featured in publications ranging from lifestyle magazines like Planeta Joy to major news outlets: BBC to China Central Television to the New York Times. During this time, I was also honored to serve as Culinary Ambassador for the U.S Embassy in Buenos Aires. I worked directly with U.S. Ambassador Vilma Martinez to promote a greater understanding of the culture & cuisines of Asian-Americans.
And now I am excited and passionate about pairing my cuisine with the best wines of Argentina. In October, I launched a new restaurant – “Mun” – at Casarena Bodega & Vineyards. We’ve been serving their delicious Sauvignon Blanc for more than a year and it will be exciting to pair my cuisine with their entire line (505, RamaNegra and RamaNegra Reserva). I am thrilled to be recognized by Wine Enthusiast Magazine for my collaborative efforts with the Casarena winemaking team to develop our Rama Negra Reserva Pinot Noir 2011. It’s an exquisite pairing with my sushi.
Under the direction of winemaker Alejandro Sejanovich, Casarena is a boutique winery with a grand reputation and an incredible future. It’s located in the heart of the Lujan de Cuyo region of Mendoza. They are in the execution phase of an important investment to be completed in 2013 with a world class Visitor Center. And I am delighted to serve as Executive Chef.
During the completion of the Visitor Center, “M u n” will be held every weekend in the Barrel Room of Casarena at 505 Brandsen, Perdriel, Lujan de Cuyo. It will provide an intimate environment for small groups — in a beautiful setting coupled with my personal involvement in the dining experience. Picture a champagne reception with a view of the Andes followed by Asian & California cuisine made with the highest quality ingredients. All paired with the fine wines of Casarena.
I hope to see you soon!