Tag Archives: san francisco

Wendell Kim

Former MLB Coach Wendell Kim Dies at 64

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

Wendell Kim, a former coach for several MLB teams, as well as a former minor league player, died on Sunday near his home in Arizona after a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. He was 64, reports the Chicago Tribune. He is survived by his wife along with his son, daughter-in-law and grandson.

Wendell Kealohepauloe Kim was born on March 9, 1950 in Honolulu, Hawaii to Doris and Phil Kim (The meaning of his middle name is “never ending love”). His family relocated to Long Beach, California, to help his father’s boxing career.

The St. Louis Sports Page published a feature on Kim this past August detailing his rough childhood and being diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease. It describes Kim’s father as abusive to his wife and children, who was then killed in 1958, possibly by the mob, for refusing to throw a fight.

Kim would rise above the traumatic events of his childhood. He took up baseball in high school at the encouragement of his mother. After graduating from Banning High School in Wilmington, California, Kim attended Cal Poly Pomona and played three years of baseball, setting school records and being selected twice for the All-California Collegiate Athletic Association team.

In 1973, Kim traveled to San Francisco without telling his mother to participate in an open try-out with the Giants, who signed him as an undrafted free agent. That began the first of 24 years with the Giants organization.

Using his height as a motivational factor, Kim, at 5-foot-4, would spend eight years playing as a second baseman, unfortunately never cracking the big league roster despite posting a .363 on-base percentage in 2,525 plate appearances. He was no slouch: Kim at the time benched 320 lbs and leg pressed 1,000 lbs.

After a coaching and managing stint in the minors, Kim joined the Giants coaching staff in 1989, quickly making a name for himself with his passion, as well as his aggressive baserunning decisions. During his tenure as the third base coach, the Giants won the pennant in his first year and won 103 games in 1993.

WKimKim as the San Francisco Giants’ third base coach. Photo via McCovey Chronicles.

Known as “Wavin’ Wendell” or “Wave ‘em in Wendell” for his aggressive style, Kim became one of the most recognizable third base coaches in San Francisco Giants history, a position he held until 1996. While he drew the ire of fans for being over-aggressive in sending baserunners home only to be thrown out, he was always the first to take responsibility if he made a mistake in the media.

Regardless, his enthusiasm and energy made him a fun figure to watch. Kim cut a diminutive figure among his fellow coaches and players, but he would be the first one to sprint out of the dugout and take his place in the third base coaching box. 

Kim was dismissed by the Giants following the 1996 season and went on to join the Boston Red Sox as their third base coach from 1997-2000. He was voted Man of the Year in 1997 by the Red Sox, becoming only the second non-player to receive the award in 33 years. After coaching with the Milwaukee Brewers and Montreal Expos, Kim made his final stop of his career with the Chicago Cubs before retiring in 2005.

You can make a donation in Kim’s name to the North California chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association here.


Get our daily newsletter


Roy Daniel

Roy Choi’s Fast Food Restaurant Loco’l Launches Crowdfunding Effort

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

Fast food chains aren’t known to crowdfund, but Loco’l isn’t your normal fast food restaurant. Spearheaded by chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson, Loco’l is touted as a locally sourced and affordable fast food option.

The first location is set to open in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood later this year. The funds from the Indiegogo campaign will go towards building that first restaurant. As of Jan. 14, 2015, the campaign has raised 7 percent of its $150,000 goal.

“Our vision with Loco’l is to create a fast food concept that’s delicious, but do it with the heart of a chef,” the Indiegogo campaign page says. “As chefs, we’re approaching it just like we would another restaurant … Then on the other side of it is being aware of what fast food is and what it’s become in America, and why it’s so important, popular, and powerful. Not trying to throw all of those things away.”

“We’re just trying to take it back to basics,” the page continues. “A lot of these fast food chains weren’t evil before. Somehow along the line as businesses grow, money and things start to change your decisions. Then before you know it, sometimes you don’t know which way is up anymore. Our philosophy in this is always to know which way is up. As chefs, we would never get to the point where we would be serving poison to people.”

One basic staple of fast food is the burger, and according to Choi, the cornerstone of Loco’l will be a 99 cent burger. The challenge will be not to make it a gourmet burger, but something that “feels, tastes, looks, smells, and sits in your hand just like a Quarter Pounder.”

Perks for contributors include with a social media shout-out, Loco’l sticker, signed copies of the chefs’ individual books (including Choi’s L.A. Son), and even opportunities to personally hang out with the chefs or get a private cooking class with Chef Chad Robertson from Tartine.


Starring Act with Corey Lee

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

The San Francisco Bay Area culinary scene boasts a number of Michelin-starred restaurants, but only four can now claim the highest three-star rating. Benu, which specializes in minimalist fare with Korean and Chinese influences, is one of them.

The restaurant’s chef de cuisine and owner, Corey Lee, knows something about the stars. The 37-year-old has worked at acclaimed restaurants in Europe and served as chef de cuisine at the three-star French Laundry for seven years before opening Benu. Receiving the top rating for Benu in 2015’s Michelin Guide, Lee told KoreAm via email, was “surreal.”

In March 2015, chefs and foodies alike can catch a glimpse into Benu’s history and philosophy through the Benu cookbook. It won’t feature your typical collection of recipes, however. The 256-page book will include 150 photographs and illustrations and is presented as a 33-course tasting menu. Readers will be able to experience not only the making of Benu’s cuisine, but also the inspirations behind it through personally written essays and stories from Lee.

Featuring forewords by Thomas Keller, Lee’s mentor at the French Laundry, and Momofuku chef-founder David Chang, the book also delves into Lee’s culinary and cultural influences from Korea, Hong Kong, Europe and San Francisco.

Lee, who just opened Monsieur Benjamin, a modern take on the casual French bistro that has quickly established itself as a go-to late-night dining option in San Francisco, spoke to KoreAm about his busy year.

The dishes of Benu: sea bass (left) and chicken velvet.

How did you react when you heard in October that Benu had been awarded three Michelin stars?

Corey Lee: It was a surreal moment. I was a bit speechless. For most of my career, Michelin itself was this distinction that was reserved only for European restaurants. Getting Michelin stars as a chef in America was not even possible. In fact, I spent years in Europe so I could experience the kitchen and culture of three-star restaurants. And now, getting three stars at Benu—well, it’s a pretty special thing for me.

Does the third star add or change anything about the way you run your restaurant?

Not really. I always felt we pushed ourselves to be the best restaurant we were capable of running. There’s not much more you can do than that. I think, more than anything, we have to be aware and cognizant of people’s expectations. They’re even higher than they were before, and that can be a double-edged sword.


Image of the Benu cookbook by Phaidon Press.

What can people expect from the Benu cookbook?

I started working on the book in summer 2013. I think it will give readers an inside look into Benu—its influences, operations, background—things you might not know by just dining here.

What are the most important elements to a good cookbook? And what are some examples of your favorite cookbooks?

To learn something. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a recipe or technique; it could be a way of thinking about a menu or the history of a particular dish. If I’m spending the time to read a book, I want to be able to learn something new. My favorite two cookbooks are The Great Chefs of France and Science and Civilisation in China. Neither is a traditional cookbook, but they were probably the most influential to me.

What do you think another top-rated Michelin restaurant has done for San Francisco’s food culture?

I think San Francisco has been a world-class destination for food lovers for quite some time already. Having three-star restaurants in San Francisco just affirms how diverse and exciting the food scene really is in the Bay Area. It’s a good thing for everyone.

Does the Bay Area add any of its own unique culture to the “traditional” three-star experience?

Absolutely. The cliché is that Bay Area restaurants cook seasonally and use the best produce. But at the 3-star level, I think that should be a given no matter where the restaurant is [located]. For me, what makes the Bay Area unique is that there is a distinct casualness to the fine dining. Michelin is about what’s on the plate, not how fancy the dining room is or how formal the service. I think that’s really evidenced here.

For aspiring restaurateurs and chefs, what would you say are the most important components of running a restaurant and kitchen?

Stamina, vision and open-mindedness.


Featured photo courtesy of Eric Wolfinger

This article was published in the December 2014/January 2015 issue of KoreAm. Subscribe today! To purchase a single issue copy of the December/January issue, click the “Buy Now” button below. (U.S. customers only. Expect delivery in 5-7 business days).


Patterson Choi

Roy Choi’s Fast Food Restaurant to Open in San Francisco Next Year

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim

Not many individuals can create a fast food chain from the ground up, but not everyone is Roy Choi.

After announcing his latest venture with Chef Daniel Patterson back in the summer, Choi made the official announcement yesterday that the first location of the chain, called loco’l, will be in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. Locals can expect the restaurant to open by late spring/early summer.


Choi and Patterson unveiled their plans for the fast food chain back in August at the MAD3 symposium. Patterson said that they planned to start a business that could grow quickly to “supplant the fast-food chains and convenience stores that separate our youth from the taste of real food.”

“I envisioned a new kind of fast-food restaurant that served real food in a nice environment, and which could contribute to the neighborhood around it in myriad ways,” he added. “My answer lay to the south, in Los Angeles, where Roy Choi was bringing people together from all over the city around Kogi—food trucks that served tasty, hard-to-categorize food.”

For Roy Choi, loco’l is his latest project in offering affordable and healthy options–a rare “food oasis–to neighborhoods that are considered “food deserts.” Last year, Choi opened 3 Worlds Cafe in South Central Los Angeles, an idea that originated from a fruit cart project Choi was running at the local Jefferson High School.

“Price point, culture, design, hospitality, relevance and most of all flavor,” Choi said to Inside Scoop SF in August. “We will be using all our sciences and knowledge and sixth sense as restaurateurs/chefs to create a concept people love and a menu they crave, but keep it all in the pocket, keep it all affordable and delicious, and speak to what the people want.”

The location was seemingly the perfect fit for the restaurant, which is part of an overall community project. The intersection of Taylor Street and Turk, where loco’l will open, will be seeing was identified as one of nine “action zones” by the Tenderloin Health Improvement Partnership (TLHIP) with the goal of rebuilding and revamping the neighborhood. Future locations for loco’l include other inner-city “food deserts,” including Oakland, Pleasanton and Watts in L.A.

Loco’l plans to offer a menu with options like tofu-and-grain-heavy burgers, veggie bowls, falafel, rice bowls, and other items in the $2-6 range, according to Eater SF. The restaurant will also feature a “multi-use commissary kitchen” for cooking classes hosted by Patterson and The Cooking Project, a San Francisco nonprofit.

As the Bay Area gets its first taste of Roy Choi, Southern California can’t get enough of him. Director Jon Favreau (Iron Man, Swingers) and Choi announced back in September that they were trying to open a restaurant in Los Angeles featuring some of the cuisine from Chef, a film that chronicled their road trip. Along with the Kogi truck, Choi’s current list of restaurants in Los Angeles includes 3 Worlds Cafe, Chego!, Sunny Spot, A-Frame and POT at the Line Hotel in Koreatown.

Don’t forget, Choi also has his own reality show on CNN coming up sometime in 2015, too.

Feature image via Grub Street

Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 12.54.19 PM

Margaret Cho Busks for San Francisco’s Homeless

by REERA YOO | @reerabo

Margaret Cho has launched a two-month-long busking tour in San Francisco to raise awareness and funds for the homeless.

On Monday, the Korean American comedienne, actress and singer arrived at the corner of Haight and Ashbury and set down a guitar case with a handwritten sign that read, “If you have give. If you need, take (please remember your fellow man).”

Joined by Gerri Lee Lawler, Cho performed to a modest crowd and encouraged passerby to donate clothes, blankets, food and money to the homeless.


According to Demotix, Cho aims to busk the streets of SF every day for the next two months in memory of Robin Williams, who co-funded Comic Relief to help raise funds for the homeless. Today, Cho is performing on Castro and Market from noon.

Cho will announce the location and time of her performances each day via twitter. If you’re in the Bay Area, go find Cho and donate what you can to help raise awareness for a good cause!


Asiana’s San Francisco Route Suspended For 45 Days


South Korea’s Asiana Airlines will suspend its services to San Francisco for 45 days over a jet crash that killed three people in the U.S. city last year, according to Yonhap News Agency.

The review committee banned Asiana from operating its Incheon-San Francisco route for 45 days, which begins from a date of the airline’s own choosing, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport announced. Asiana, which previously said a 90-day suspension would cause a loss of $18.9 million in sales, has 15 days to appeal the decision.


In a statement released in response to the ban, Asiana said it will definitely appeal the decision, arguing that over 170,000 passengers use its Incheon-San Francisco route annually and that suspending it for 45 days will create problems for travelers. It also emphasized that last year’s crash was not caused by the airline’s violation of safety-related rules.

Although Asiana reportedly expected nothing more than a fine from the South Korean government,  Kwon Young-bok, head of South Korea’s aviation security department, said that the penalty isn’t as severe as an accident involving casualties could lead to a suspension of up to 90 days.

“The committee decided to reduce the duration by 50 percent, which is the maximum reduction allowed under the law, considering the sincere and dedicated evacuation efforts by the flight’s crew that helped minimize casualties,” Kwon said.

Asiana’s Flight 214, a B777-200ER jet, carrying 307 people, crashed while landing at the San Francisco airport in July 2013. The crash killed three and injured more than 180 people.

Photo courtesy of Reuters


Chef Corey Lee’s Benu Receives Three Michelin Stars


San Francisco’s reputation for excellent cuisine soared as two more of its restaurants were awarded three stars by the 2015 Michelin Guide to Bay Area restaurants, which was released earlier today.

As of yesterday, Chef Corey Lee’s Benu and Joshua Skenes’ Saison joined Bay Area’s restaurants the French Laundry and the Restaurant at Meadowood in the esteemed three-star category.

Michelin’s international director told Mercury News what set Benu and Saison apart were a “dazzling and distinctive fusion of local ingredients, Asian inspiration and Northern Californian gastronomic sensibility.”

Lee opened Benu in August 2010 and was given two stars by Michelin in October 2011. KoreAm had the opportunity to talk to him then about the food he serves, as well as his journey to becoming one of the most well-known chefs in San Francsico. You can read the article here from the November 2011 issue of KoreAm.

Expect to hear a lot more about Lee and Skenes and their cuisine in the coming months. Lee, a French Laundry alum, opened Monsieur Benjamin, a 90-seat bistro, over the summer, and he is putting together a cookbook. Skenes also has one on the way, and he plans to open a hand-pulled noodle restaurant with Umami Burger founder Adam Fleischman in 2015.

Mercury News also noted the rise of Asian-inspired restaurants on the Michelin list. Along with Benu and Saison, sushi restaurants Kusakabe and Maruya joined the one-star roster. Seven out of the 13 newcomers to the 2015 Michelin Bib Gourmand honors, which is bestowed on excellent restaurants where two courses and a glass of wine costs $40 or less, were Chinese, Japanese or Asian-inspired. You can find the full list of the 2015 restaurants here.


According to SF Gate, it’s the first time in history that San Francisco proper has had a three-star Michelin restaurant, let alone two. The French Laundry and the Restaurant at Meadowood are both in Napa Valley.

If you’re looking to make a reservation at the newly-christened Benu or Saison, do it quickly and expect to pay a good amount. Saison was already among the most expensive restaurants in America, and Benu could understandably raise their prices.

The West Coast now boasts four Michelin three-star restaurants, although unfortunately for Southern Californians, they’re all in the Bay Area. Chef Roy Choi is quick to defend the Southland, however.

The 2015 Michelin dining guide for San Francisco, one of just three U.S. regions to have its own guide, goes on sale today. The Michelin Guide discontinued its Los Angeles version two years ago.

Photo by Vivien Kim Thorp


Roy Choi to Launch Healthy, Affordable Fast Food Chain


Is there anything this man isn’t doing?

In his latest culinary venture, chef Roy Choi is partnering up with San Francisco chef Daniel Patterson to launch a new chain of fast food restaurants called Loco’l. The chefs made the announcement on Monday at MAD4, the fourth annual Copenhagen conference for chefs, cooks and farmers.

“We want to go toe to toe with fast food chains and offer the community a choice,” Choi told Inside Scoop SF.

“Price point, culture, design, hospitality, relevance and most of all flavor. We will be using all our sciences and knowledge and sixth sense as restaurateurs/chefs to create a concept people love and a menu they crave, but keep it all in the pocket, keep it all affordable and delicious, and speak to what the people want.”

All items on the menu will range from $2-$6 in order to compete with places like McDonald’s and Burger King. The recipes will be prepared by Patterson, who owns the Coi in San Francisco and has appeared on PBS’s Mind of a Chef. According to LA Eater, dishes will include burgers made with a beef and tofu mixture, salads, rice bowls, and “cross-cultural” items like falafel and tacos–the latter of which Choi knows a thing or two about.

For the lucky NorCal folk, Choi and Patterson plan to open the first Loco’l branch in San Francisco in spring 2015, and Los Angeles will get its own a few months later.

“High-level chefs have an opportunity to do much more than just cook for the few people who can afford it,” Patterson said in a blog post on the MAD website. “We can create real change, in this case, by building a better business. As much as thoughtful articles and speeches and books are important in shifting how we think, they are not going to solve the food problems we have in our country.

“If we can open profitable restaurants that are inexpensive and serve delicious food made with real ingredients; if we bring new options to places that currently lack quality food; if we cook with heart; if we create an environment of warmth, generosity and caring; if we value the people with less money just as much as the ones with plenty, we can make a difference.”

At last year’s MAD conference, Choi emphasized social responsibility among chefs to bring delicious, healthy food to people in need. And as busy as he’s been, especially with the recently opened Commissary restaurant at the Line Hotel in Koreatown, where he also has Pot, Pot Cafe and Pot Bar, the chef appears to be doing his part to carry out that vision.


Last year, Choi opened the 3 Worlds Cafe in South Central Los Angeles, which is often referred to as a food desert because of the lack of healthy food options available in the area. With its fresh juices, smoothies and coffee the goal was to bring healthy, delicious options to a place where chefs and restaurants normally kept away from, as well as provide a place for local youth to frequent.

Choi said Loco’l was the beginning of a “ripple movement,” and like the inspiration for its name, it’s going to be crazy.

“Loco–we are crazy to do this and you’re crazy to believe it,” he said. “Local–it’s about the community and everyone, not just the ones that can afford it. Loco’l.”