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From Japanese Hip Hop to Yan Melbourne’s Kitchen – Chef Chat with Joel Gangho Lee

By Leigh O’Connor.

Watching Chef Rick Stein's cooking shows on TV in Seoul motivated Joel Gangho Lee at an early age to think about a career in the kitchen.

Fast forward and this innovative South Korean Chef is now in charge of the menu at Yan Melbourne on Toorak Road in South Yarra. Diners can experience the magic when smoke meets earthy ingredients at this industrial-styled destination, where exposed brick, polished concrete and potted greenery set the scene for inspired dining.

Joel confesses to being ‘really into’ Japanese jazz hip hop during high school, but it was a working holiday exploring Australia that fired his desire to become a professional Chef after a stint as a kitchenhand.
From Japanese Hip Hop to Yan Melbourne’s Kitchen – Chef Chat with Joel Gangho Lee

"I have loved watching cooking shows since I was little,” he recalls. "One day I was watching Chef Rick Stein and it motivated me to become a Chef. He broadened my cooking spectrum – I like meat but used to avoid seafood. However, he cooks seafood in such a simple way yet it looks fabulous.”

While studying at Le Cordon Bleu, Joel interned at Four in Hand in Paddington, moving on to the sister venue, Four Fourteen in Surry Hills. After graduating, he was head-hunted to open Yagiz in Melbourne and then Yan Asian Smokehouse.

"I love a classic style of food, especially French in flavour and presentation. I would say my style is Asian-influenced European cuisine.”

One dish you will find on the menu at Yan is confit duck cigars, a menu favourite Joel created in his late stages at Yagiz.

"When we opened Yan, people demanded it to be on the menu, so I modified it to embody the essence of an Asian smokehouse. We also do a take of a vegan char siu BBQ pork, using versatile wintermelon as the main ingredient.

"Diners have rarely heard of wintermelon, but it is quite common in Chinese braising and soup dishes – some people even thought it was a typo on the menu and it should have been watermelon!”

From Japanese Hip Hop to Yan Melbourne’s Kitchen – Chef Chat with Joel Gangho Lee
It is his recipe for Korean yukhoe – beef tartare – that he shares with AGFG home cooks:

"Like the French in the 17th Century, Korean Royals created yukhoe or beef sashimi. Our yukhoe has Chinese, Japanese and Korean flavours in the dish, but Westerners might still think of it as French beef tartare.”

Joel says diners at Yan can expect Asian-inspired smoky meat and vegetables with fusion flavours they have never experienced before.

As for the future, this savvy Chef used to plan everything…until COVID!

"After the pandemic, I realised that sometimes there is no point in planning too far ahead in the future. So, let’s just go with the flow!”

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Yan Melbourne

Experience the magic when smoke meets earthy ingredients at Yan restaurant on Toorak Road in South Yarra. This industrial-styled Melbourne dining destination rocks a vibe of exposed brick, polished...

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