“The International Culinary Center offered me not only knowledge of the field, but also the whole culinary world in New York City.”
Hometown: Seoul, Korea
Course of study: Restaurant Management and Culinary Techniques
Graduation year: 2009
One food/beverage you can’t live without? carbohydrates
Describe your culinary POV in three words: family, friends, love
Best meal of all time? the breakfasts that my mom made—she would wake up three hours earlier to prepare for the family
What would your last meal consist of? chicken soup (must be hot)
Current occupation: President of Suji’s Korean Cuisine, a line of ready-to-heat Korean meals
How would you describe yourself when you first entered the International Culinary Center? What drew you to your interest in food and restaurants?
I already owned four restaurants when I decided to go to the International Culinary Center in 2008. I was enthusiastic about my profession but needed more knowledge in basic culinary skills and restaurant management to move our business forward.
When did you first know you wanted to be a restaurateur?
I didn’t know until I ran the business for about six months. I had been a marketing and PR professional for a long time, and I started my company without any restaurant knowledge or background. The reason I started my business was simply because I saw the niche market for expats in Asia for Western-style comfort food restaurants. Then I fell in love with it.
What is your general impression of your International Culinary Center experience? Was it what you expected?
It was definitely more than I expected. The International Culinary Center offered me not only knowledge of the field, but also the whole culinary world in New York City. Among the many qualities that the school offers, I was the most impressed with the faculty for both culinary and restaurant management classes.
Did you find the energy of New York City and its culinary scene enhanced your experience?
Definitely! I had lived previously in New York City for a long time, so I was already familiar with the city. But, attending the International Culinary Center was a totally different experience. I am so glad that I discovered the culinary side of the city while at school. Now I see New York in a different light.
What were your goals upon graduation?
To go back to Asia and open a restaurant in Singapore, but I ended up opening four more locations in Seoul and Tokyo instead.
Describe your career path from graduation until now.
The year I graduated, in 2009, we opened Suji’s C&C inside of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, and the following year, I opened two New York- style delis and one deli restaurant in Korea. Also, deli meats, like pastrami and roast beef, are being sold at Costco Korea under the Suji’s Deli brand.
Do you actively pursue hiring International Culinary Center grads?
Yes! We are hiring interns and employees through Career Services. We have already hired two graduates for our Seoul and Tokyo locations.
Can you talk specifically about how the planning and business aspects of your education have helped you launch and manage your business?
My culinary classes helped me understand the basics of cooking. This is extremely important to know as an owner, especially when I plan our menu and work with the chefs directly.
I learned so much professional information from the Restaurant Management course. But, the financial classes were the most helpful, and we are using the tools that I learned for our company. We actually used the lessons I learned for a presentation with a potential investor. And, of course, we got the deal!