Fancy a tasty sandwich with an Asian twist? How does a twice-fried chicken sandwich with gochujang (Korean red chili pepper sauce), pickled daikon radish, lettuce and mayo sound? Or, if you’re in the mood for Japanese, how about a miso B.L.T. sandwich stuffed with miso-marinated slab bacon and a fried egg?
You can now get these delicious Asian-inspired sandwiches from Red Star Sandwich Shop in Brooklyn, run by brothers Johnson and Gibson, who graduated from NYU in 2007 and 2010 respectively with degrees in liberal arts.
Both brothers have always been into food. As kids, they loved experimenting in the kitchen with both American and Asian ingredients. Younger brother Gibson, the chef, went to NYU because their parents wanted him to even though he always wanted a non-traditional career.
After graduating from NYU, Gibson studied at the International Culinary Center and then worked at Manzo, Ippudo NY, Momofuku, and Landhaus. Older brother Johnson went on to law school and practiced corporate law for a few years, after which he realized that he wanted real-life, hands-on experience.
Together they came up with the idea of making food that reflected the way they eat, combining Asian and American flavors. In July 2014, the two brothers opened Red Star in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, taking classic American sandwiches and reinventing them with Asian flavors and ingredients.
Does the Liberal Arts degree from NYU come in handy? For sure. Older brother Johnson uses his background in law for reviewing contracts, dealing with government regulatory and taxation issues. Moreover, the brothers find that broader skills developed in college, especially with a Liberal Arts degree, are more important.
NYU taught them how to communicate and interact with people, how to foster creativity, as well as how to manage time efficiently and prioritize tasks. The business faces countless decisions daily, such as how to handle a complaint, what workers to hire, how to manage fluctuations in demand, etc. According to Johnson, “a liberal arts degree doesn’t teach you what decisions to make, but it gives you confidence to think about an issue from all sides and know that you made the best decision at the time.”
Apart from the delectable sandwiches, you can find other American and Asian comfort foods, such as wonton soup, wasabi edamame, glazed fish balls and mac and cheese. Red Star is also known for their tater tots, which are fluffier, creamier and lighter than their traditional American cousin.
If you don’t want to go out to Brooklyn, you can also find Red Star in various food fairs around NYC, including Hester Street Fair and the Bryant Park Monday Summer Film Series, as well as at Electric Zoo. The kitchen is currently working on a recipe for a new sandwich for Lunar New Year in February 2016.
So don’t despair if you’re solving multivariate calculus problems or memorizing legal statutes right now in college; you could be running the next up-and-coming dining spot in NYC in a couple of years.