Now He’s Cookin’
From picky eater to winner of the James Beard Award, chef Corey Lee is scaling the culinary heights.
Story and photographs by VIVIEN KIM THORP
In some ways, Corey Lee could be seen as your typical 30-something bachelor. He works hard, lives alone and keeps no perishables in his fridge (only beverages, and mostly alcohol at that). He doesn’t bother taking his shoes off when he gets home and hasn’t made breakfast in 10 years.
But then Lee, who turns 34 at the end of this year, had a James Beard Award under his belt by the time he was 28. He’s worked at Michelin-starred restaurants in the U.S. and Europe, co-authored a book with Thomas Keller, and served for more than four years as chef de cuisine at Keller’s world-renowned French Laundry in Yountville, Calif. Now, Lee is the chef and owner of his own restaurant, Benu, which opened in San Francisco in August of 2010.
Benu was given two stars by the prestigious Michelin restaurant guide on Oct. 25. It’s a major victory for the chef.
“It’s a huge honor, and the whole thing feels a bit surreal,” Lee says. “You just do what you feel is best and hope Michelin recognizes that. But that was yesterday, and today we are already going about our work like nothing happened.”
Housed in an elegant brick building in the SoMa district, a simple silver sign features the restaurant’s name, which means “phoenix” in Egyptian. Lee picked the name as much for its meaning and sound, as for its hard-to-determine origins. The restaurant’s facade boasts large windows where passersby can stare into the bright and busy kitchen. Here, sous vide machines (which utilize a method that combines the steady heat of poaching and an airtight seal) bubble up perfectly poached sea cucumbers, and staff members meticulously slice duck flesh and patiently weigh dumpling skins, a pair at a time. Continue Reading »
The making of Dan Choi
When The Rachel Maddow Show came calling to discuss his public defiance of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Lt. Dan Choi answered the call of duty for what would become an all-consuming public role as the face of change within the U.S. military.
On MSNBC’s Maddow Show, the fresh-faced Choi made his debut on national television with three powerful words which he spoke while staring directly into the camera: “I am gay.”
That sentence, stated publicly, broke Army regulations and immediately put the decorated Iraq war veteran’s job on the line. They were just three words, but they sparked an international media firestorm, leading Choi — living with his parents at the time — to perform 18-hour days filled with interviews, appearances and lobbying. They also galvanized a movement that Tuesday ended with the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which like so many army regulations has its own acronym, DADT.
“I didn’t know if I could say no to anybody so I just did every interview,” Choi said of his first months as an activist.
He was using his father’s phone, who asked the newly minted superstar, “Are you turning my house into gay headquarters?”
Seung Hoon Choi leaves S. Korea for educational opportunity, ends up in No. 9 Huskers’ lineup
AP via Washington Post
Here’s a nice profile of Seung Hoon Choi, the Korean immigrant walk-on player who started for the ninth-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers last Saturday.
Choi’s parents sent him to this country with the belief he would have a better chance at a college education. The family picked Lincoln because an uncle, the brother of Seung’s father, had worked at the university as a researcher and lived here with his two children, Seung’s cousins.
Seung’s older sister, Ju-Youn Choi, preceded him to Lincoln and went on to the University of Washington — the school whose team Choi started against on Saturday.
“Although I am an alum from the University of Washington, I am happier that Huskers got victory,” Ju-Youn wrote from South Korea in an email to The Associated Press.
The only words Choi knew upon his arrival in Lincoln were “yes” and “no,” and homesickness prompted him to beg his mother, unsuccessfully, to let him to go back to South Korea.
Girl describes alleged sexual assaults at the hands of Ace Academy director in Pen Argyl
The Express-Times (Lehigh Valley, Pa.)
A 15-year-old high school girl testified this morning how the director of a Slate Belt foreign study program sexually assaulted her 17 times over a three-month period.
The girl said she recorded in her diary the dates and times that Richard Kim, 33, of Horsham, Pa., allegedly made advances and sexually assaulted her. She said the encounters started with Kim kissing her and eventually progressed into unwanted molestation and oral sex.
‘Hell on earth’: Detailed satellite photos show death camps North Korea still deny even exist
Daily Mail (U.K.)
The North Korean government may deny their existence, but photos taken from space have revealed in unprecedented detail the concentration camps that are used imprison more than 200,000 citizens.
Men, women and children are forced to work seven days a week as slaves and eat ‘rats, frogs, snakes, insects’ and even faeces to battle starvation in the camps.
Previously there have been blurred images taken by satellite but new detailed pictures from South Korea’s Unification Ministry allow a closer look at the sites – and also prove they have grown.
N.Koreans tell US of lives ‘worth less than flies’
AFP via Google News
North Korean defectors Tuesday urged the United States to isolate Kim Jong-Il’s regime as they recounted years in camps where they toiled morning until night and lives were worth less than flies.
Amid cautious international efforts to engage North Korea, US lawmakers invited two women to share their stories of suffering in a bid to put a greater priority on improving human rights in the communist nation.
Kim Hye-Sook told a congressional panel that she was taken to a prison camp with her family when she was only 13 because, she learned later, her grandfather had defected to South Korea years earlier.
Inmates were forced to work in coalmines for up to 18 hours a day and ate scraps of food, she said, and guards threatened to execute anyone who broke rules — including a ban on prisoners even knowing why they were jailed.
Springfield Sisters Make Chocolate, Write Books
Patch.com (Burke, Va.)
If chocolate is the basis of your food pyramid, you can’t miss Chocolate Chocolate: The True Story of Two Sisters, Tons of Treats, and the Little Shop That Could, by local authors Frances and Ginger Park.
The Park sisters co-own the popular D.C. shop Chocolate Chocolate — a Washington Post editor’s pick — and together have co-authored nine books inspired by their Korean American heritage.
Chocolate, Chocolate is their latest book and first memoir. It chronicles their lives after the death of their father in 1979. Grief stricken, the Park sisters, with their mother as a silent partner, opened a chocolate shop. It has thrived for the past twenty seven years.
[San Francisco Restaurant] Seoul Patch Starts Serving Bulgogi LTs Today
Not long ago, Eric Ehler, who’d been a cook and sous-chef at Serpentine for three years, took a break from cooking to hang out in Seoul. “I didn’t just love the cuisine of Seoul,” says Ehler, who was born in Korea but had spent his life in the States. “I also wondered: What is this crazy Americanization of everything? Because of the American influence on the country after the Korean War, I saw a lot of foods there like corn dogs wrapped in french fries. Real Korean American food.”
Spotted on the Street | Heewon Kim
New York Times (fashion blog)
The Girl: Heewon Kim, a fashion stylist and the executive director of the store Qlosette, a women’s clothing boutique.
The Location: Mulberry Street between Prince and Spring.
The Look: A demure but striking combination of pretty pink lips and cheeks, framed with a strong, angled bob with bangs.
Rise Seen in North Korean Intimidation
Wall Street Journal
North Korean attempts to hack computers at South Korea’s Health Ministry and related organizations have nearly doubled this year, officials said Tuesday, part of a campaign of intimidation and sometimes violence by Pyongyang that appears to be escalating but gets less attention than military and nuclear provocations.
North Korean hackers have ramped up efforts to obtain health records of individual South Koreans that are maintained in the South’s state-run health-care system, Yoon Seok-yong, a member of the South’s parliament said. Computer systems at the South’s Health Ministry withstood over 14,000 access attempts through the first six months of the year traced to the North, compared with about 17,000 for all of 2010, he said. It is unclear what information, other than basic name and address data, is the focus of the attacks.
Is a Miracle Happening for Oh Kil-nam?
Wall Street Journal
It’s amazing news if it’s true: Oh Kil-nam’s wife and daughters are alive, after 25 years in North Korean concentration camps.
Mr. Oh, a 69-year-old former economist who has tried during all that time to bring attention to his family’s plight, hasn’t heard since the late 1980s whether his wife Shin Sook-ja and their two daughters were still alive inside North Korea’s prison system.
He learned that they were on Tuesday when he read a story in Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s largest newspaper by circulation. (He says the newspaper didn’t call him first.)
Korea beats Oman 2-0 in Olympic football qualifier
Korea opened its final round of the 2012 Olympic regional qualifiers triumphantly, defeating Oman 2-0 in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, Wednesday.
Midfielder Yoon Bitgaram broke the deadlock with a free kick in the 23rd minute after a tense competition to dominate the field at the Changwon Football Center, while substitute Kim Bo-kyung secured the victory at home in the 74th.
Ji-sung Park: The United cash machine who owes it all to a diet of boiled frogs and antlers!
Daily Mail (U.K.)
At midnight on Sunday, Korean time, millions will tune their televisions or radios into Manchester United kicking off against Chelsea, none of them sure if their main man will even feature.
For this is hero worship, Asian-style, and the man they all adore is Park Ji-sung, the most successful footballer the world’s largest continent has produced.
It is also music to the ears of United’s money men because, increasingly, even the most far-flung fans are translating to cash. What does Park life sound like at Old Trafford? Ker-ching.
Report: Terrell Owens is in Korea for stem cell treatment
Back in the day, an NFL player would tear up his knee and say, “Ah, I’ll just rub some dirt on it and go play.” We’ve evolved past that now. We’re at least to the point where a guy will insist on rubbing some Korean dirt on it before going back out and playing.
Terrell Owens is in Korea right now, according to the Korea Times, looking for a stem cell treatment he couldn’t get here in the states. Owens tore his ACL a couple of months ago, and I guess it’s not healing as fast as he wants it to.
More from the Korea Times.
Two Men Arrested in Killing of TV Reporter in China
New York Times
The police in central Henan Province have arrested two men suspected of killing a television reporter whose microblog posting touched on a scandal involving the illegal reuse of cooking oil, the state media reported Wednesday.
In the days since the reporter, Li Xiang, 30, was stabbed to death, the Chinese media have speculated that his murder may have been prompted by a posting he sent out about a local factory that processed and resold discarded restaurant grease.
San Francisco interim mayor Ed Lee announced today he will seek a full four-year term in the upcoming mayoral election, according to news reports.
The Chinese American former city administrator was named mayor, replacing Gavin Newsom, seven months ago on the premise that he would not seek the office once the interim period ended.
“I’ve changed my mind,” Lee told The San Francisco Chronicle. “I know it might be hard for people to understand that change … but my change of mind in seeking this office has everything to do with wanting what’s best for this city.”
He said he had no designs on running for mayor back in January. That’s when the avuncular city administrator with a penchant for goofy jokes had to be talked into taking the job temporarily after then-Mayor Gavin Newsom was elected lieutenant governor.
Lee said he changed his mind after elected officials, including U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, persuaded him Continue Reading »
by Hatt-Me Kim
Just one month after a Oakland robbery-related heart attack incident, another elderly San Francisco Bay Area shopkeeper is dead due to similarly traumatic circumstances.
Ho Kim, 70, the longtime owner of Travis Dairy store, died from cardiac arrest after three teenage boys allegedly knocked him to the ground and pepper-sprayed him before running off with his cash register, video recorder and other stolen goods.
After announcing last Thursday that as a result of their detectives’ aggressive investigation in the case, police in Fairfield, Calif. — a city 38 miles from San Francisco — have arrested and charged five suspects with robbery and homicide, according to local broadcast station KTVU.
17-year-olds Dazmon Frazier, Osis Smith, and James Young, Chelsea Johnson, 18, and a 15-year-old juvenile appeared in Solano County Superior Court on Friday.
Kim was able to call 911 and explain to the arriving officers what happened before being taken to NorthBay Medical Center, where he suffered what Solano County coroner Ray Lamb called “a cardiac arrhythmia due to an emotional distress caused by an assault.”
Affectionately known as “Papa” to area residents, Kim’s senseless passing greatly impacted the community, and the police stated that, “community participation in solving the case resulted in the arrest of all those responsible for the crime.”
Last month, Oakland shopkeeper Dong Suk Kang suffered a fatal heart attack after a physically violent struggle with a 14-year-old Continue Reading »
by Hatt-Me Kim
Henry Adams once said, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” Well, one uniquely dedicated San Francisco teacher is proving that he is at least aware of one of his influential pit-stops for his students, and it’s squared directly on his newly-inked left calf.
In order to motivate them to get higher standardized test scores, science teacher Stanley Richards promised the graduating class of City Arts and Technology High School that he would get a tattoo of vice principal Paul Koh if they succeeded in doing so, according to The Bay Citizen.
The radical idea was conceived during a 2008 brainstorming meeting to decide cost-effective but innovative incentives to help relive the pressure on teachers to raise students’ scores. Koh recalled one teacher’s idea to offer “dollar-off coupons at the corner store.”
With students expected to increase their scores by a mere seven points on California’s Academic Performance Index, Richards laid down the gauntlet for them to try to boost it up to 50 points. However, he laughingly said, “[I was] 99 percent sure that it wouldn’t happen.”
The tattoo holds extra-special meaning for Richards as he is leaving the school this year, after having worked there as a “founding faculty member for the past seven years.” Koh recently ended his duties as well.
And the now memorialized tattoo continues to amusingly bewilder the person embodied in the impressive image.
“Stanley asked me – can you send me a picture of a really angry face – and I took it in the middle of the work day.” Koh said. “It’s weird that my angry face is now on his calf forever.”
Check out the video after the jump: Continue Reading »