2015 Seattle Rising Star Sustainability Chef Heong Soon Park of Tray Kitchen

2015 Seattle Rising Star Sustainability Chef Heong Soon Park of Tray Kitchen
November 2015

Spending his formative years moving around the world —from South Korea to Malaysia and Switzerland—Heong Soon Park absorbed a global perspective growing up. But one important Korean cultural value stuck with Park and would inform his career as a chef and restaurateur: provide a better future for your children.

Park got his initial exposure to the industry working at his family’s restaurants in Anchorage, Alaska, where he also attended business school. In 2008, Park and his wife Han moved to Seattle, fell in love with Pike Place Market, and found a small space to open their fi rst restaurant, Bacco Café. Park began working the kitchen day in and day out, and attended culinary classes at the Art Institute of Seattle.

After getting comfortable with Bacco, the duo took several trips to Korea for inspiration for restaurant number two. Chan opened in 2012 as an homage to Park’s Korean heritage, and after receiving critical acclaim from the local critics, Park got hungry for a third restaurant—this time with sustainabilty at its heart.

He purchased a space and leased farmland in Woodinville in 2013 and opened Tray Kitchen in 2014. Now, in season, his work on the farm yields 90 percent of the produce for his restaurants.



Interview with Seattle Rising Star Sustainability Chef Heong Soon Park of Tray Kitchen

Sean Kenniff: What does sustainability mean to you and why do you think it’s important?
Heong Soon Park:
Sustainability simply means the future to me. I’m from South Korea, and, in our culture, parents are responsible for providing a better future for our children. So as a father of two children, the first and easiest step for me to ensure that, is by using sustainable products.

SK: What is the farm company that you work with out in Woodinville? Can you describe the business model?
HSP:
The company is called Seattle Urban Farming Company. They design and take care of the farm for customers. They began by building small rooftop farms, but later they acquired a big piece of land close to the city and started subleasing plots to local business so that they can grow their own produce. I was one of their first customers. Every year we meet and plan out how we are going to work together to take care of the farm. For us, they seed, plan, and deliver the produce to us. But I typically visit the farm every week.

SK: You mentioned that you’ve done chef dinners out on the farm.
HSP:
We’ve done dinners for our staff, as well as private ones for customers. The purpose of the dinners is to show off the produce and the farm. What we can do at the restaurant is limited. We can serve seasonal ingredients, which is great, but it’s only a small part of the full experience. The seasonal weather, air, environment is all part of that and I wanted nature to take care of that.

SK: What percentage of the produce used at your restaurant comes from the farm?
HSP:
It depends on the time of year. In the spring: 40 to 55 percent, summer: 80 to 90 percent, fall: 50 to 60 percent, and the winter: 30 to 45 percent. Our farm is located in a place where it is really hot in the summer and cold in the winter. We have a lot of produce in the warmer periods, but during the winter we can only rely on a small quantity of seasonal ingredients and stuff that we stored from the fall.

SK: How do you source other products like fish and meat that don’t come from the farm?
HSP:
I like to do business with smaller local vendors and prefer to pick the meat and fish myself, that way I can talk to the butcher or fishmonger in person. They are a great resource and creating a relationship with them goes a long way. We use a local meat company called Better Meats, they are located about 40 blocks north from our restaurant. They’ve been around for about 90 years, so I learn something new from them every day. We also get some of our vegetables and frutis from local farmers such as Willows Farm. They have great garlic and beans that I don’t have.

SK: What’s your five year plan?
HSP:
I’d like to open a small, approachable fried chicken and beer place and a restaurant for industry people. I want to create a place that feels more like a friend’s house than a restaurant, so no menu, open late into the night, with good, fresh, and healthy food.  

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