“Diners want something different, not just classical French anymore,” said Executive Chef Seakyeong Kim of patrons when asked if he feels any pressure to be innovative in his craft. To keep guests intrigued and satisfy his personal desire for the new and exciting, Seakyeong treats his menu like a revolving door. “Within a month to a month and a half, I get tired of a dish,” says Kim. Currently, his favorite dish on the menu at Charlie Palmer in Bloomingdale’s South Coast Plaza is the lamb belly served on a steam bun, with gochujang (Korean spicy sauce), cucumber, tamarind yogurt and sesame seeds. This is bound to change soon though, as he constantly asks himself, “What is my own cuisine?” In hopes of answering this question, Chef Kim meditates before bed, reads voraciously, tries new dishes and takes advantage of social media the ones that allow him to keep up to date with the culinary endeavors of friends on the East coast.
Striving for development and perfection are not goals that Chef Kim keeps to himself; they’re transmitted from sous chef to server. From prepping to plating to service, the chef strives to make his presence known in every aspect of the kitchen. In his own words, he describes his management style as comprising a balance of both “strictness and an enjoyable environment.” In order to achieve the latter, he fuses the concepts of learning and responsibility into one. His team is responsible for developing fresh and inspiring ideas that can be incorporated into the menu at Charlie Palmer. It is routine for Chef Kim to give one of his sous chefs the assignment of creating a dish or making an adjustment to a dish on a short deadline. In his endeavor to be fair and treat co-workers equally for the greater good of the back of the house team, the chef dishes out compliments and reprimands across the board. His favorite means of ensuring that he communicates with his entire team is group texting. “I text my team to make sure that even if someone wasn’t there that day, they know what mistake was made and that it should be corrected.”
Fortunate patrons of Charlie Palmer owe it to Kim’s aunt for encouraging him to attend the Culinary Institute of America. After serving in the Korean air force from age 18 to 20, Kim made his way to Manhattan, New York to visit his aunt. Before journeying back to his native home of Korea, his aunt advised him to give the CIA a try. Kim’s prosperous career is proof that sometimes all it takes is a single decision to set one on the road toward achieving his or her dreams. When he first visited the CIA, Chef Kim was overwhelmed with emotion. “This is heaven,” he thought, “I felt like the CIA was my dream school. I cried on the first day with joy and I cried again on the second day when I wondered how I would make it to graduation.”
With a minimal grasp of the English language, Kim was able to complete his studies at the CIA in two years and subsequently secure positions in places such as The Clerkenwell in London with Chef Andrew Thompson, Nobu London, and with Gordon Ramsay at The Ledbury London. Kim shows sincere gratitude towards his classmates that aided him in learning English. It is no wonder that he strives to create a positive learning environment at Charlie Palmer.
The key to contemporary American cuisine for Kim is an eclectic mentality in the kitchen. At Charlie Palmer, Chef Kim flourishes with his freedom to create. Working in contemporary American cuisine allows him to fuse techniques and flavor profiles from his native land with those of Vietnam, Mexico and European countries. Such a broad range of culinary influences also cultivates his propensity for experimentation. One of Chef Kim’s unique culinary abilities is his knack for manipulating the senses. Often times he finds himself creating a dish that appears to be of one cuisine when plated, but has the flavor profile of another. His signature escargot dumplings, for example, are inspired by traditional French technique but transformed into a welcome shock to the senses with Asian spices rather than the expected French.
Chef Kim says that the culinary world allows him to “appreciate art more.” It gives him a better understanding of how to use space when plating and also serves as inspiration for creative plating. As an artist is always aware of the flaws in their work, so does Kim retain an ever present state of conscientiousness. Perhaps this preoccupation with perfection is the driving force behind his desire to enable patrons to leave Charlie Palmer feeling as if they were exposed to an inspired modern twist on a traditional dish or means of preparation. “I want people to leave feeling like they are familiar with the flavors but have never thought of this combination.”
The root of Seakyeong’s career began in Korea when, as a child, he would sneak into the kitchen to watch his mother cook. As of now, he finds his home at Charlie Palmer. “I haven’t found anything more fun than cooking,” says Chef Kim. (He promises to let us know if he ever does.)
Bloomingdale’s South Coast Plaza
3333 Bristol Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
1st COOKING OR FOOD-RELATED MEMORY: When I was very little I made Bibimbap (Korean mixed rice) for my family.
WHAT FIRST INTERESTED YOU IN THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY? I like to cook and I really enjoy making people happy when they eat my food.
IF NOT A CHEF, WHAT WOULD YOU BE? I am not sure, I have never thought about that. I haven’t found anything more fun than cooking. I will let you know once I find out!
WHAT 3 WORDS BEST DESCRIBE YOUR CULINARY STYLE? Contemporary American cuisine.
MOST RECOMMENED FOOD INGREDIENT SOURCE (ONLINE OR RETAIL SHOP) FOR FOODIES: chefrubber.com.
FAVORITE OC RESTAURANT: Hamamori Restaurant.
FAVORITE RAW INGREDIENT: Live octopus.
FAVORITE CONDIMENT/SPICE: Chili flakes, coriander seeds.
CULINARY HERO(S): Charlie Palmer.
YEARS OF CULINARY EDUCATION: 3 years in Korea. 2 years in America.
PLACES TRAVELED TO EXPLORE AND LEARN TRADITIONAL CUISINE: Europe (England, France, Italy, Germany etc.).
FAMOUS CHEFS YOU’VE MET: Charlie Palmer, Nobu Matsuhisa, Gordon Ramsay, and Michael White.
CHARITY AFFILIATIONS: March of Dimes (lead chef in 2013), Project by Project, American Liver Foundation, Santa’s Letter, Dux in Tux.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST JOB? Flower deliverer in Manhattan.
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST HOSPITALITY JOB? Flower deliverer. I loved to see people smile when they got flowers.
FAVORITE KITCHEN GADGET OR TOOL: Spoons, chopsticks.
FAVORITE KITCHEN APPLIANCE: Sous-vide circulator.
FAVORITE TYPE OF COOKWARE: Combination oven or All Clad Cookware.
MOST RECOMMENDED KITCHEN TOOL AND SOURCE (ONLINE OR RETAIL SHOP) FOR HOME KITCHENS: All Clad Cookware.
BIGGEST MYTH ABOUT WORKING IN THE KITCHEN: I don’t believe anything!
SIGNATURE OR FAVORITE DISH TO MAKE: Korean food, kimchi.
OTHER CUISINES WORKED WITH: Asian cuisines.
HOBBIES: Not much, too busy to find something yet.
FAMILY INFO: Grandmom, parents, and one older brother – all of whom live in South Korea.
FAVORITE DISH TO EAT: Sashimi.
FAVORITE JUNK FOOD: Chili hot dog.
FAVORITE FAST FOOD: Hamburger.
DO YOU WATCH FOOD TV? IF SO, WHICH PROGRAM(S) IS(ARE) YOUR FAVORITE? Iron Chef.
SCHOOL: CIA (Culinary Institute of America).
OTHER EDUCATION: Food Science.
YEARS IN BUSINESS: 14 years (BOH).
WHAT 3 WORDS BEST DESCRIBE YOUR MANAGEMENT STYLE? Enjoyable, cheerful, competitive.
PREVIOUS INDUSTRY EMPLOYERS: Aureole N.Y, Charlie Palmer at the Joule in Dallas, Texas, the Clerkenwell in London.
Salt and pepper
Season scallops with salt and pepper. Add enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Once hot, sear the scallops until crusted. Flip and cook evenly on the other side.
1 C Pineapple – diced small
1 T Ginger – grated
1/2 C Shallots – brunoise
1 C White wine
1 T Sugar
Salt and pepper
Heat a large saute pan over medium heat, add vegetable oil. Quickly cook pineapple, ginger and shallots. Deglaze with white wine. Add sugar and reduce to dry. Season to taste.
1 C Rhubarb – small dice
1/4 C Simple syrup
1/4 C White wine
1/2 t White balsamic vinegar
1 T Grenadine
1 C Greek yogurt
2 T Mint – chiffonade
Salt and Pepper
In a small saucepot cook the rhubarb, simple syrup, white wine, balsamic and grenadine until rhubarb is softened. Strain the rhubarb from the cooking liquid, and reduce liquid to a glaze. Mix back together with the cooked rhubarb.
At service time add yogurt and mint.
Dehydrated pineapple chip
In the center of a serving plate, place a dollop of rhubarb yogurt. Place two pieces of scallop over the yogurt. Top the scallops with the pineapple chutney. Garnish with edamame and pineapple chip.