2017 New York City Rising Star Chef Junghyun Park of Atoboy

2017 New York City Rising Star Chef Junghyun Park of Atoboy
January 2017

After earning a degree in food science at Kyung Hee University in Seoul, South Korea, Junghyun Park took off far and wide. He began his globetrotting odyssey in Finland, on a chance exchange program, and then took a deep dive into European food culture. Park eventually traveled to more than 30 countries.

From Europe, he headed to Melbourne, Australia, where he ended up working at Andrew McConnell’s Cutler and Co. for nearly three years before returning to Seoul to work in Chef Jung Sik Yim’s newly opened, fine-dining establishment, Jungsik. When a satellite of Jungsik opened in New York City, Park led the American team as chef de cuisine, turning it into one of the best reviewed restaurants of 2011 and earning two Michelin stars.

In 2016, Park and his wife Ellia opened Atoboy, a casual, progressive Korean restaurant just off  the 32nd Street hub for Korean dining in Manhattan. Where Jungsik presented Korean flavors using French technique, Atoboy (ato meaning gift in Korean) makes greater use of Korean technique and focuses on banchan—sort of a Korean answer to tapas. Also breaking from the Jungsik model, the format at Atoboy is pre-fixe only at a steal-of-a-price: $36 for three courses. With more “Ato” concepts in the works, Park is working toward reconfiguring and redefining modern Korean food in America.



Interview with New York City Rising Star Junghyun Park of Atoboy

Caroline Hatchett: How did you get your start?
Junghyun Park:
I graduated with a food science degree in Korea, and always loved cooking. I wanted to learn more about cooking, and had a chance to be an exhange student Finald, learned about food culture in Europe. Interned at The Ledbury in London for five months. After that, I didn’t need to go to culinary school. I moved to Melbourne, worked for three years under Andrew Macono.
I went back to Seoul, worked at Jungsik, and presented new Korean food into the U.S. market. I
wanted something smaller, more easy meals, less expensive. This is my cusine. We opened four months ago. It’s more casual, but the food is in step with fine dining flavors and techniques.

CH: Where do you draw influences from?
JP:
I’ve been to 30 countries, and draw from that experience, from Mexico, Europe, Australia. But
I care about traditional food too. I conceptualize on ingredients first. I find something at market, and go into my taste memory. I try to match with other ingredients, textures, flavors, then come up with a recipe. I use traditional Korean cookbooks. Michelin went to Korea, now with stars they may do some publishing, and next year you may see different ypes of Korean cuisine in the media. New York is trendy, but Korean food is stuck in K-town. It’s been the same menu for ten years.

CH: How are you involved in the local community?
JP:
I hire CIA grads and prefer to teach them before they pick up other habits at other restuarants.

Our aprons and plates are made by a Korean designer– our goal is to promote our culture to younger Koreans. The name “Atoboy,” ato means gift, giving the gift of Korean food to American dining.

CH: What's the biggest challenge facing your restaurant?
JP:
Spreading the word, different kind of food compared to what people expect. The expectations of Korean food is a lot different – people think of Flushing, and Korean Bar-be-que. But the people who complain the most are Koreans!

CH: What's your five year plan?
JP:
Promote our culture, and show it to young Koreans. For the menu, we want to do something more