Baroo chefs Kwan Uh, left, and Matthew Kim
Baroo chefs Kwan Uh, left, and Matthew Kim
Anne Fishbein

Baroo Chef Kwang Uh Steps Away Temporarily

Baroo has always had the bearing of a temporary experiment that could change or disappear at any moment. The sparse, modernist, Korean-tinged, fermentation-based Hollywood strip mall restaurant (a description that should make you proud to live in L.A.) has closed off and on while chefs/owners Kwang Uh and Matthew Kim traveled and took time off for development, and there's always a fear among fans that one day they just won't come back. Now Uh, who has been the recipient of most of the media's attention thanks to his international fine-dining background, is stepping away from Baroo temporarily, leaving Kim in charge. Uh will be spending the next six months at a Buddhist temple in the southern part of South Korea, a place he visited while taking some time off from Baroo a few months back.

Via email, Uh told me, "When I visited Korea last year, when shutting Baroo down for a short break, I visited a temple, located in the southern part of Korea, pretty remote, and on a mountain. I felt a longing at that time to stay there to breathe, think, practice, learn, experience and meditate. And it has been a haze on my mind [ever since]."

He finally decided that if he put it off any longer it might be too late. He says he was fairly nomadic before he opened Baroo, and remembering his attitude from that time — one in which he had nothing to lose — fueled his decision. Originally he had hoped to be able to spend a year at the temple, but he realized that would be impossible. He plans to be back in L.A. by mid-2017.

In the meantime, Baroo will stay open, with Kim at the helm. Uh is already in Korea, and "Matthew already has been in charge by himself."

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