“It’s something that I really love to do,” says chef Jenee Kim, who as a single mother started Park’s BBQ in 2003. “I didn’t work for a while. … I just came back to L.A. with my two kids. I just put in everything I had. I was kind of brave because I didn’t know anything.”
What Kim did know was how to cook. “I did major in food and science at Korea–Seoul Women’s College. I just wanted to open up a restaurant, which was something I can do best.”
Kim’s customers, many of whom happen to be celebrities, frequent her restaurant to get a taste of Korean home cooking.
“You can’t get kimchi like this anywhere. This is homemade kimchi,” she says as she pointed to some side dishes. “And this is my favorite—garlic stem. My mom used to cook for me when I was little.” Kim serves up to 16 free side dishes per table, some of which change with the seasons.
Park’s BBQ has an extensive menu of countless traditional Korean dishes. But the restaurant is best known for its barbecue. “I really want you to try brisket with this,” Kim prompts me when our table grill filled with chadol (beef brisket) is ready. I try the meat with a side dish Kim recently created. “Cilantro is not really Korean food, but cilantro kimchi makes all this barbecue really special,” she explains.
We then grilled another type of meat at our table. “This is our signature barbecue,” Kim says proudly. “Galbi. The famous galbi, Park’s galbi.” She watches as I take a bite and smile widely. “I like the smile on your face,” she comments.
Each dish took a lot of care and time to make, Kim explains. She says she pushes herself to continue growing as a chef. “We do a lot of studies,” she says. “I still go to Korea twice a year to develop new dishes, side dishes.”
Kim’s passion apparently has rubbed off on her daughter, too. “My daughter is a chef. She’s been a chef at Mozza for 10 years … so I feel really proud,” she says .