Q: When did you first come to US and what made you decide to open a location in Princeton? How long has it been?
My career has been interesting because I first came to the US in 1991 not to open a restaurant but for my degree. I had a chance to visit Princeton while I was studying at a university nearby and I fell in love with its rustic charm. That was when I thought, if I would come to US to live, it would be in Princeton. I immigrated to the US a few years later and opened Nassau Sushi on July 1st, 2003. So it has been eleven years.
Q: Tell us about yourself and your family. Any difficulties when opening a restaurant? Did you have any experience in cooking or restaurant business before?
So in 1996, I came back and started my career at my relative’s restaurant in Baltimore. There, I learned all about cooking and running a restaurant business for six years. Not only did I learn cooking skills like making sushi, I learned how to deal with customers and manage a restaurant.
I have a daughter who studies music performance and education at Rutgers. She plays flute and it’s her first year in college.
Q: What are your day-to-day responsibilities as a restaurant owner and manager? Organizational structure?
I get here everyday at 10:30 a.m. to prepare for opening at 11:30 a.m. From 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. when we close to prepare for dinner, I go for a jog on campus. Princeton campus is so picturesque at any time of the year. Inspiration for a new menu or a better way to form a relationship with customers often comes up while I’m jogging. It is the best time of my day.
Q: What is the most popular menu?
Bibimbap is hands down the most popular menu. Unlike Korean BBQ, bibimbap is not something you would see in other kinds of cuisines. It also seems to appeal to vegetarians.
Q. You are scheduled for the electric chair. What’s your last meal? Any menu you want to try?
For me, I used to love sushi and sashimi but because I have been making them for the last decade, I would prefer something else on my deathbed. Galbi guior kimchi jjigae would be a fair bet.
Q: How are the customers in general? Any famous people?
Professor Paul Muldoon who teaches poetry at the Lewis Art Center is one of my most memorable customers. He comes here with his family frequently and loves sushi and Korean food. He has also given a lot of good advice to my daughter. Professor Chang-rae Lee is a frequent visitor too. I remember his favorite menus being kimchi jjigae and chirashi.
Q: What are some of the challenges of being a restaurant owner and manager? Secret to success? Principles to keep in mind?
The challenge of running a restaurant, especially in Princeton, is the very strict standard regarding fire safety, hygiene, and food safety. But this is not a painful stress, and instead motivation to keep the business in a better condition.
I would say my secret is freshness of ingredient and honesty. Every ingredient is delivered from New York three to four times a week. Even those people who are not familiar with Korean cuisine would know whether the ingredient is fresh or not. Health and freshness are my utmost priorities.
For kimchi, which is indispensable for making Korean food, my mom comes here to make it once or twice a week. No MSG is used and it is completely based on a traditional Korean recipe. Although I have been in business for eleven years, it is always pleasantly surprising to see Americans enjoying Kimchi.
Q: Something you want to say to students or want them to know about Nassau Sushi?
Generally I love when students make a reservation for a party but sometimes it can be hard to accommodate them when they only come here for the venue because it is BYOB. Try to taste different kinds of food and I promise that you won’t regret it!