PEOPLE

APR 30, 2014

Iron Chef Judy Joo becomes the new face of Korean cuisine on the Food Network

member interview   |   By Privy Editor

judy joo

Occupation: Chef, food writer, TV personality

Based in: London and NY

Last Education: Columbia University and French Culinary Institute

After graduating from Columbia University, Korean-American Judy Joo was well on her way to success by Asian mother standards--a daughter whose resume could handily trounce other children in tiger mom bragging duels with relatives. But after several years on the trading floor of Morgan Stanley, Joo could no longer ignore her real calling to lead a kitchen. To parents who considered her love of cooking a hobby and not a real job, Joo emptied her desk on Wall Street and enrolled in cooking school.

“Becoming a chef wasn’t really allowed,” Joo recalled about her upbringing. But I decided to jump to the dark side...life was too short not to do what you love.”

judy joo

Turns out her parents have even more to brag about now. Joo, who is one of the four Iron Chefs in the UK, is also one of the few female executive chefs in the world, leading the kitchen at The Playboy Club London.The London and New York-based chef has also helmed at acclaimed restaurants including Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry, Fat Duck, and three-Michelin starred London’s Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. Joo was vetted by Ramsay himself, a chef and television personality known for throwing line cooks out of the kitchen with the phrase, “You donkey.” Fortunately the orneriness wasn’t there the day Joo was dining with a friend at his restaurant. When Ramsay worked the room and chatted with diners, Joo introduced herself and the chef offered her a trial in his kitchen the next day. The restaurant was the first in her career as a professional chef and she was there for two and a half years.

“Joo will host a new show, “Korean Food Made Simple, which will make its debut April 19th on the cooking channel, a spinoff of the Food Network that’s targeted at a hipper crowd interested in the grassroots of food culture. The show will take place in different locales in Korea to feature those region’s trademark dishes, like street food coming out of the stalls that line up the streets of Seoul or kimchi, which Joo calls the “next ketchup,” from Korea’s countryside.”

Joo influence as a chef is a noteworthy feat in a time when female chefs are still rare in the top kitchens, a fact made clear in November by a controversial Time magazine spread that showcased its choice of the world’s most important chefs, with not a woman among them. The chef admits the “somewhat abusive” environment of restaurant kitchens leads new talent to “sink or swim.” Clearly, Joo is swimming.

 

1.

 

How did you get interested in cooking?

 

My mom enslaved my sister and me to help out with the cooking from a very early age. I remember having to make a million dumplings (mandu), brush oil onto towering stacks of thin seaweed (gim), and pick sesame leaves (gaenip) from the garden. I grew up with home cooking and that really influenced me. I particularly liked baking because of the scientific elements of it married with incredibly artistry. We had a neighbor who used to make roses from bread dough. I thought that it was so cool… how did she make that out of food?!

 

2.

 

You have a degree in engineering from Columbia University and worked as finance executive at Morgan Stanley. Was that passion to cook always there, and how did you eventually take the leap and switch ove

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