Compliments of the chef with Bill Kim

Compliments of the chef with Bill Kim

This week, Chefs Feed met up with renowned chef Kim at his restaurant, BellyQ, in Chicago's Near West Side.

January 8, 2014
CF: I'm best known for my _______ style of cooking but I can make one hell of a _______. 
BK: aggressive, garlicky Asian; salad for my wife 

CF: A few words your sous chef would use to describe you. 
BK: They'd probably say I preach a lot, that I'm motivational (sometimes they even call me Moses), and that I often say "big guy" to get their attention. 

CF: What are you most excited about right now in your restaurant? 
BK: We recently joined forces with Cornerstone Restaurant Group and moved Urbanbelly to Randolph Street inside of BellyQ, so now we have two concepts in one building: one counter service, like the old place, and one full service restaurant with all the bells and whistles. I'm also really looking forward to our March Madness karaoke showdown, but instead of 64 basketball teams, we have 16 restaurants, a sing-off, and three celebrity judges. The best singer wins! 

CF: Which chef would you drop everything to stage with? 
BK: Well he'd have to come out of retirement first, but I'd choose Frédy Girardet from Switzerland. I actually got to eat at his three Michelin-starred restaurant about 20 years ago, just before he retired. The amazing thing is that he never really trained under anybody. He always did food the way he wanted to do it. There have been many chefs who came from his kitchen, many of whom I also really respect.

CF: Insider tip from the kitchen for diners. 
BK: Come in with your guard down; we aren't going to serve you something that's not "good," so let us take care of you. Oh, and don't forget the most important part: enjoy the company you are with. That's what the whole dining experience is about. Let the food be a part of that experience, don't have it be one or the other. It's like we always say: "Feed your belly from your heart." 

CF: Message to professional food critics. 
BK: Have an open mind. There are going to be more and more generational differences between traditional and non-traditional as the world grows. Traditional cuisine categories need to be broken down and updated a bit because the world's a different place now. 

CF: One piece of advice for aspiring young chefs. 
BK: Cooking is not that hard. There are just a few things you need to do: work hard, always strive to be better, and set goals. Read anything and everything, and make sure to taste all that's around you. Save your money to go out to eat at restaurants. It doesn't have to have four stars; just visit your local mom-and-pop shops and ethnic spots and discover your palate. You don't have to go to culinary school for that. 

CF: What is your definition of success? 
BK: Success, in my opinion, is first and foremost defined by how well I take care of my employees, as well as how I sustain my business, grow my restaurants as a company, and create good food. 

CF: Is there anything you don't like? 
BK: I'll eat beef liver and I'll even eat tongue, but please don't send me gifts from the kitchen that are so different just for the sake of being exotic. My feeling is, if you can create dishes with something people know, they can then say, "Wow, how'd they do that?" But when you put an eyeball down, they have nothing to compare it to. 

CF: What’s for family meal tonight? 
BK: Rice cake stew with bok choy, braised chicken, and daikon.