Three home cooks from across the country converged in downtown Los Angeles at Yangban Society on Thursday to compete for a cash prize and the chance to have their dish featured on the menu of the restaurant, which was just named one of the Top 10 Best New Restaurants of 2022 by Bon Appetit magazine.
Hosted by the Korea Agro-Fisheries and food trade corporation at Center LA, the K-Food Lovers Cook-Off is part of the K-Food Lovers initiative that invites all those interested in discovering and learning about Korean cuisine and ingredients to join K-Food Supporters, a community of Korean food enthusiasts nationwide.
Of the contestants from across the U.S. who submitted recipes and videos, three finalists were chosen for the downtown smackdown.
Hector De Haro of Glendale presented Kimchi Poseidon Waffle filled with kimchi and the brine, scallions, shrimp, cockles, gochujang, ginger, serrano chile and three types of flour —- all-purpose, rice, and potato starch. Presentation included a side of rice wine.
Latesha James from Alexandria, Virginia grilled up a Kimchi Bulgogi Burger topped with pork belly, and Dong Hyun Kim from San Francisco, a vegan K-Mush K-Asserole of mushrooms and Asian pear over rice.
The first-place winner of the competition, for which the contestants across the US submitted videos of home chefs cooking Korean-inspired recipes, took home $2,000 and will have their recipe featured on Yangban Society’s menu for a limited time. The second-place winner scored $700, and third garnered $300.
An intimidating lineup of judges included star Yangban owners Katianna and John Hong, as well as star chefs Walter and Margarita Manzke of Republique, Jason Neroni of Rose Café, and New York’s Iron Chef Esther Choi.
While the chefs cooked, Yangban Society bites like its signature sweet and spicy wings and Korean sausage with sauerkraut in mustard sauce kept spectators and judges occupied. After 45 minutes of intense competition under challenging circumstances and honest criticism from the judges, an L.A. winner emerged.
Glendale’s De Haro, whose day job is actually as a lawyer, came in first; James took second place; and Kim, third.
“I love Korean pancakes,” De Haro told L.A. Weekly, as he basked in the thought of having his dish officially featured on the Yangban Society menu. “I make those pretty regularly, and got a new waffle iron a little while ago and had to figure out something to do with it, and this just came to mind.”
So what’s he going to do with the grand prize?
“Buy more kitchen toys, which is what I do with most of my money already,” the winner admitted.
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