Describe an early food experience that has influenced the way you think about food and/or cooking.
I grew up with a huge extended family living nearby and we always had several family parties every year. Whoever was hosting would always cook up an amazing feast (of Korean food) from scratch using only the best ingredients—nothing was store bought or catered. The matriarchs of the family emphasized that it was a demonstration of their love for the family. This philosophy has definitely stuck with me: Whenever I invite anyone over for a meal, I use only the best ingredients and I try to make everything from scratch.
What's your least favorite kitchen task?
I hate cleaning the stove top, especially after I've fried something. I have slight O.C.D. when it comes to cleaning up after myself; I always want to clean immediately after I've made a mess. But the problem is, there's a waiting period for a just-used stove to cool before it can be cleaned.
Your favorite kitchen tool?
More: Make your ideal kimchi—here's how to do it without a recipe.
What is your idea of comfort food?
Any spicy Korean stew is my idea of comfort food. It's the type of cuisine I grew up with and it's the one type of food I always have a craving for.
What is your greatest kitchen disaster?
In high school, I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies with my cousins. We all reached for warm cookies, straight out of the oven, took giant bites, and then simultaneously spit them out. My mom kept pantry ingredients in similar containers and instead of brown sugar, I had reached for dasida powder, which is Korean beef bouillon powder. It was one of the worst things I've ever tasted! It was a good lesson to learn early on though; I always double check my ingredients now.
Top photo by Alpha Smoot; all other provides by Rach Kim