Only in his mid-twenties, Chef Deuki Hong has already co-written a book with friend Matt Rodbard called Koreatown: A Cookbook. He's also gained accolades as head chef at Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong in K-Town, and headlined at an NYCWFF event called Koreatown Eats (which suddenly kind of makes me feel like a lot less hard a worker).
But then, I did get to grill the chef and pick his brain for his pickings from NYC locales to the choices he's made in his career and eating habits. Its easy to see why he's come so far. His charming and happy-go-lucky demeanor—even and especially under the pressure of servings hundreds of NYCWFF guests—was astonishing.
The first thing I was incredibly curious about was how he has accomplished so much at such a young age. And his answer wasn't the one I expected. He didn't go into the industry with a 10 year plan or anything. Hong says he wakes up and starts fresh every day anew. As long as he starts each day still wanting to do what he's doing, he's happy.
This lax attitude translates to more than just his work philosophy. He doesn't consider himself knowledgable when it comes to food trends. In fact, his favorite new trend is that people are going retro and getting back to making food they grew up eating instead of eating at Michelin restaurants simply because they are "elevated."
Ever humble, he even gives all of his book-writing credit to co-author, Matt Rodbard. The two were chatting and decided they were sick of generic Korean cookbooks. So they thought "what if we did something in the style we would for our friends?" And so Koreatown the cookbook was born.
And if you think you're a disaster in the kitchen, you're not alone. When I asked for a disaster story, Hong replied while scraping granita together for his dish, "My very existence and the fact that I'm in the kitchen is a disaster story." Although I'm willing to bet his disasters weren't as bad as these.
So when he feels like a bit of a disaster, he likes to venture out and make a quick stop at Meatball Shop or a grab nice sit-down meal at Upland, both of which are helmed by two other famous chefs who were present at Koreatwon Eats. (Although he also made sure to note that you won't find the best Korean food in New York.)
Speaking of food outside of NYC, I asked Hong what he's got in the works for the next year or so, but it seems we'll just have to wait and see like everyone else. He's "working on some stuff," but sadly it's on the DL right now. All he would tell me is that he's planning on making moves out of NYC. "I love New York, but all my experiences have been there." It's time for something new.
By the end of the interview I had a few food debates I wanted him to settle, rapid-fire style, and he was incredibly confident in his answers.
Should pizza be folded or eaten open?
Hot dogs with ketchup or mustard?
DH: I don't eat them, but if I did, no ketchup.
Thoughts on French Fry dipping in milkshakes?
DH: I don't know about milkshakes, but french fries in a Wendy's Frosty are really good.
How should you really eat an Oreo?
DH: Take it apart, eat the cream first, then eat the cookie.
Coke or Pepsi?
DH: Neither. I'm a Sprite kind of guy.
Best way to cook steak?
DH: Medium rare or I don't talk to you.
I, for one, can't wait to see what this rising star has on the west coast horizon. I'm sure its just as fantastic as the bite I had from him that night.