Baekjeong Korean Barbecue, Michael Chon’s successful Korean barbecue concept that has caught on throughout Southern California with its evocation of the iconic Korean night market, is planning to open a branch in Seattle (Lynwood) this summer and another in San Jose, California this Fall. The name Baekjeong, which has the playful tagline “We Meat Again,” is derived from the Korean word for “butcher,” and the menu lists a wide range of USDA Prime beef cuts, from the quotidian (brisket) to the obscure (abomasum). And fear not — there’s a custom-made circular grill at every table upon which to cook them. Jonathan Gold fell in love with the place in 2015, and its popularity has further exploded since then. There are currently seven locations in operation (six in SoCal and one in New York).
Chon, CEO of Kijung Hospitality Group (which opened the first location in Los Angeles’ Koreatown in January 2012), was born in East Los Angeles to first-generation Korean American parents who came to the U.S to provide educational and economic opportunities to their children. Born with an entrepreneurial impulse, Chon first developed several successful enterprises from the ground up in finance and technology. But he says what gets him out of bed in the morning is his passion for the merging of great food and service that is Baekjeong’s mission: “When great food is married to excellent service with a unique and vibrant dining experience, then the meal touches the hearts of our customers and delivers on my promise of ‘customer happiness.’ I love focusing on all the little details that must come together — expanding menus, delivering authentic flavor profiles, training staff, and refreshing the dining environment.”
Chon credits his mother as being his most important mentor, saying, “She instilled in me my values and taught by example that success is only achieved through hard work and attention to detail.”
And now, for the first time in the company’s history, the kitchen is led by a Korean-American chef. Senior Director of Culinary Operations Chef Samuel Kim spent time in Thomas Keller’s Michelin-starred Pe Se, Gabriel Kreuther’s The Modern, and other high-end restaurants over the course of two decades before finally arriving at a place where he can cook the food of his heritage, which he says is very satisfying. He credits Kreuther for teaching him French technique and the style of elevated service he brings to Baekjeong.
Beyond the prime cuts of meat, additional menu items include stone pot bibimbap, kimchi stew, spicy paste cold noodles, cheese mountain tripe fried rice, seafood ramen, and Korean pancakes and dumplings. The most popular drinks offered to pair with the food are beer and soju. Almost everything is designed for sharing, of course, but some locations offer quick lunches for one.
The two new locations in Seattle (Lynwood) and San Jose, which are well-timed as we slowly emerge from the pandemic, will advance the cause of Korean barbecue on the West Coast and seem destined for success.
Visit the Baekjeong website for more information.