Get excited! Our Local Chef’s Pop-Up event tonight is SOLD OUT! Find our last full length interview with Chef Jin of Jin’s Journey below, and then be sure to come ticket in hand tonight to taste her creations yourself!
Q: When did you know you wanted to be a chef?
A: It was actually quite late in my life, when I was about 27. I’m 34 now. Basically, I was approaching 30, and the discussion was, “What have I done with my life? What am I doing? Am I happy?” And the thing that made me happy that was in front of my face all my life was cooking, but I was not doing that professionally, I was working in sales, and it just took me a while to realize that that’s where my passion actually lies. When I was 27, I started to change my direction to focus on food.
Q: Describe to me your most cherished food memory.
A: It wasn’t an eating memory, it was more of a gardening memory. When I was around six years old, I’d go to my grandmother’s house in Brooklyn, in Crown Heights, in her backyard…she would be gardening every single day. Just going back there and watching her, and not really understand what she was doing and why she was doing it, but watching her enjoy gardening. And my grandmother is still alive, and to this day, every single morning at 6AM, she goes in her backyard – she’s now in Florida – she goes in her backyard in Florida she is messing around in her garden. All day. Like, she is over 80 years old, and this is what makes her happy, and it is just a beautiful thing to see her enjoy that, to be strong and vibrant, and getting up early every day, and out there all day working in her garden. And when I was a kid, I didn’t understand it, and now I’m an adult, and I do it, and I understand now why it was so important to her, why she still does it to this day, and it’s now something I love. Just growing food, and watching it, and being proud of the food that you can produce in your own home.
Q: Any comfort foods or guilty pleasures?
A: A pint of rocky road ice cream. I’d eat it every day if I could.
Q: When you develop new dishes, where do you get your inspiration?
A: Everything around me inspires me. It could be from having conversation with someone, it could be from watching TV and seeing someone eat something, going to a restaurant and trying something new…pretty much everything I come across in life daily inspires me, whether it’s colors, or something I actually ate, etc. And then the actual process of what I actually wanna do with those flavors, that usually comes to me in…the shower. The formula actually comes to me when I’m getting ready to go, that’s when everything comes together. I go about my daily life, and that’s when the formula develops.
Q: How would you describe your cooking style?
A: I don’t know the answer to that. In general, my personality is really welcoming and homey, and I feel like when I host people in my own home, I like to decorate and make a whole big production of it, and I like to make people feel super comfortable. And I think that comes out in my food too, I like family-style a lot, for example. I like to to incorporate the people too, I like to talk to them about their whole experience, where food comes from, the whole idea behind the dish I’m serving. I would describe the feeling you get when you eat my food as a homey, welcoming, comfort food. But, you know, when people think comfort food, they’re thinking macaroni & cheese and fried chicken. That’s not what I’m saying. It’s more of a feeling that you’re getting, like a family gathering, intimate feeling.
Q: What role did food play in your life growing up?
A: Well, I’ll keep it real with you. Growing up, I did not like cooking. I had to cook, because my mom was a single mom, I had younger brothers, so I had to cook when she wasn’t home. Maybe that’s where the nurturing and family part comes in, because I made them sit at the table, and we always ate together, we never ate separately, and then every Sunday my mom did make a huge meal, and we all sat together at three o’clock in the afternoon to eat dinner. So, that’s something I try and do in my own house, with me and my husband. It’s more of gathering, talking, communicating, that’s what it means to me, just being able to gather everyone together and feeling happy, upfront, open, and comfortable to discuss anything everything, and feel safe.
Q: What are some of your favorite simple dishes to make at home?
A: I make tacos a lot, and the reason why is because I always have tortillas in the fridge. Whenever there are random things in the fridge, I pile it in a tortilla and eat it. If anything, I always have eggs. So I usually make myself a breakfast burrito, and it’ll be like, a fried egg, goat cheese, and some greens, such as sautéed kale or collard greens. If I come home late, that’s like the go-to thing for me. Because, a lot of chefs, you know, if you’re cooking all day, you don’t feel like cooking more when you come home. So that’s why, real quick, within 10 minutes, I can whip this up. And then, also, I’m really heavy on salad. I have a variety of nuts, and dried fruit, and there are always greens in my fridge