My name is Jae Lee. I am 32 years old and I am from Seoul, South Korea.
I grew up in Korea until I was 8. I was popular and had many friends. I ate with my parents and grandma every dinner. We moved toJamaica Queens in 1997 and I had to adapt and grow in a totally new environment. I felt left out in the beginning but started to make friends and was able to fit in. We moved a lot even in New York. From Jamaica Queens, to Flushing to Floral Park and then Hicksville. We always ate as a family though, and that dinner table was a special table for me.
Childhood meals in cafeterias: Sloppy Joe, chocolate milk in a carton. Childhood meals at home: kimchi jjigae with rice and over easy egg and mango juice in bottle.
I am the owner of Nowon. My title is chef/operator I guess but I do everything whenever needed. I got into the industry needing to get a job to pay rent at the tender age of 18. Through my dad's connection in a Korean church, I got a job as a ramen cook in the city.
Pandemic was a crash course of operating a business. This is the first business that I've owned and I learned to pivot and to keep grinding. I think this pandemic has shown who is resilient and who is not. It was a chance for some businesses to try something they always wanted to try. It made me stronger and grow as a leader. I was challenged in ways. For example, I stopped drinking alcohol. It made me more focused and gave me a lot of clarity I needed in order to lead the team.
It's taught me to always pivot and be ready to welcome change. Remain positive, and stay mentally strong for yourself, family and the team. To take a day off when exhausted and mentally drained, to treat yourself and eat healthy. To nourish your body but also your mind.
My favorite dish currently is our "Dry Aged Steak Burger" and our "Seoul Mule". We recently R&D'd and made a secret seasoning blend which enhances the umami and brings out more of meaty characteristics in the steak burger. Seoul Mule is such a fresh, gingery and refreshing soju cocktail, we use ginger infused jinro 24 soju, fresh ginger syrup, ginger beer and candied ginger as garnish.
I love Asian restaurants. It's because they're so familiar to me and I always feel fulfilled and content leaving. I usually order a club soda with lemon or diet coke on occasion. Food order must consist of protein, vegetables and carbs and dessert all family style. I love sharing and tasting a variety of dishes. Growing up in a Korean household, that's what I am accustomed to.
I am actively scoping spaces for my next project, wherever, whatever, and whenever that may be.