Interview with Chicago Rising Star Chefs Johnny Clark and Beverly Kim of Parachute

by Caroline Hatchett
May 2015

Caroline Hatchett: How did you get your start in the industry?
Johnny Clark: 
I went to the Culinary Institute of America when I was 19. I worked in New York City until 2008 and was at La Côte Basque and Town. I did some catering in Westchester and traveled to France and worked a little at Le Chateaubriand.
Beverly Kim: I got my culinary degree at Kendall College. I worked at the Ritz Carlton Dining Room, Charlie Trotter’s, Whole Foods, and a lot of other places.

CH: Who are your mentors?
JC: 
I was never with someone long enough to call them my mentor, but there are many people who have inspired me and taught me how to think about food differently. Chef Im Ji Ho in Korea and the people at Le Chateaubriand changed my whole perspective. From them I saw that you can create chef-driven food but be casual at the same time. It doesn’t need to be stuffy and you don’t have to be all “Oui chef!”
BK: Chef Sarah Stegner. She gave me my first job when I was 16, and she’s still my mentor. She’s one of those people who’s done it.

CH: How did the two of you meet and end up in Chicago?
JC: 
I had worked in Korea cooking nontraditional Korean food with Chef [Im Ji Ho], and I wanted to find someone who had a similar experience as me, and there was really no one. I came across Beverly in a local magazine. It said she had worked in Korea, as well, so I reached out to her and the rest is history. Beverly grew up in Chicago, so this is home. I’ve visited other cities, but this is where I wanted to have my career.

CH: When did you know you were ready for your own place?
JC: 
We always knew we wanted our own restaurant. Both my parents are entrepreneurs, and I didn’t like working for other people. Beverly’s dad has his own business too. He came to the United States without knowing any English and with $300 in his pocket, but he was able to start his own thing. He’s such an inspiration.

CH: How do you balance work and family?
JC: 
That was a big concern of mine. I wondered how I was going to balance being a chef, having my own space, and having the family I wanted. We wanted the cake and  to eat it too. So we did. No investors here. Just support from our families.
BK: On a day to day basis, we work out a schedule so there’s always someone to open and someone to close. I usually come in by 7am and leave between 7pm and 9pm. [Johnny]comes in at noon and stays until we close. We both work quite long hours, but if either of us were doing it alone, we would be working 20 hours!

CH: What’s the biggest challenge facing your restaurant?
JC: 
Keeping up with the amount of business. We weren’t prepared for that. We only have six burners, yet we have 130 to 150 covers a night. So now we’re redoing our entire kitchen because we can’t keep operating like this. We want to be more efficient.
BK: My son starts kindergarten this year, so no more waking up late and staying up late. I have to be more on his schedule and be on routine. That’s my problem, being disciplined.

CH: What’s your five year plan?
JC: 
We’re always striving to get better. We have talented people here and that will help us grow. We have a couple of ideas that we want to do, especially in this neighborhood, which is still considered blue collar.
BK: We’d like to do more traditional Korean, but add our own personal twists. We’re developing ideas right now. We definitely want to do a group trip to Korea.