There were two things that I had always been interested in since I was little: sports and cooking.
My early life was very ordinary in Korea, there was a lot of pressure from society to be a good student, to get good grades in school and to study hard.
As a typical Korean guy, I went to the military service at the age of 19 for two years. I was chosen to be a cook in the police department (Riot). After military service, I had a choice to go back to university or to do something else. I chose to study to be a policeman, only because they seemed to have a very stable and secure life, especially financially. To be a policeman in Korea, I had to study very hard, because there were more than 50 candidates for each position. At some point, I went to a Buddhist temple in the middle of the mountains to focus on studying for two months. I never knew that this would change my life dramatically.
I met a guy at the temple who convinced me to find a dream and to follow it. In my eyes, at that time, he was a guru like Tony Robbins. Shortly after, that conversation led me to travel to Australia to become a Chef.
I went to William Blue college in Sydney, studying commercial cooking in hospitality management. While I was studying, I worked in a few restaurants, from Japanese and Italian to Australian, where I could absorb all the knowledge possible.
After studying, the college recommended me to work at Sheraton Mirage in Pork Douglas. I was there for three years. After that, I moved to Melbourne to work at No 8 by John Lawson in the Crown casino. I was fortunate enough to be a part of the team that achieved one hat. I moved onto working at a small Asian tapas restaurant and opened it as Head Chef. This was a very challenging experience and I made a lot of mistakes. After opening the restaurant, I thought my Chef career was finished. I didn’t have any motivation, even though I was offered to be a part of so many different places in Melbourne. I guess, I sort of burnt out. I took six months off from being a Chef. After six months, I moved to Cairns and joined Shangri-La Cairns, taking care of North Bar and Kitchen for over a year.
After that, I joined Pepper’s Beach Club in Port Douglas as a Head Chef for almost a year and now I’m at Fusion Art Bar & Tapas. I feel so lucky to have met the owner, she is so passionate about the industry and always supports me in every way.
Have you always wanted to be a Chef?
No, I wanted to be a pro baseball player when I was a child. I have always loved sports. In fact, in my early 20s, I was a personal trainer in Korea. I still do PT, very casually.
Although I also loved cooking from a young age, I never though of it as a career until I decided to move to Australia and become a Chef.
How would you define your style?
Obviously, I have quite a bit of influence from my background, my mentors and my journey as a Chef. Also, living in a multicultural country, we have the privilege to be exposed to so many different ingredients and styles. I think those two factors made my style as a Chef.
What is your feature flavour these days?
South American (Peruvian). Chinese (especially) and South East Asian.
In Cairns, we have a lot of the vegetables in the market that you can easily see in South American cuisine. I am trying to take advantage of living in tropical North Queensland these days.
The more I learn about Chinese ingredients, the more I think that the cuisine is limitless.
Obsessive and compulsive about?
The gym. I train hard almost every day, whether I’m happy or stressed. Someone once said to me that maybe I train so hard to stay sane from this industry.
John Lawson (former Chef at No 8 by John Lawson): he is my former Chef, he showed me how to overcome anything in life by overcoming a brain tumour. Also, he taught me about healthy cooking.
Aaron Habgood (Executive Chef at Shangri-La Cairns): he inspired my passion about cooking once again, when I was almost about to give up. He inspires me to not only be a good Chef, but also a good leader. He is one of the hardest working Executive Chefs in a five-star hotel I have ever seen. He manages a lot of Chefs, but still has a great passion and desire to cook beautiful food.
Tom Kerridge: I am always inspired by his bold and honest cooking.
What do you love about this business?
It is a very honest industry.
An ingredient you can’t live without?
Salt and lemon.
Most ‘eyebrow-raising’ menu item?
Very hard to choose, because I have a few dishes that are unique, but perhaps the Oyster Charcoal.
Shaved daikon, guacamole, yuzu marmalade and macadamia nuts.
Blending artwork, fine wine and great fare, Fusion Art Bar & Tapas on Spence Street in Cairns is the place to be seen. With an industrial, up cycled and vintage vibe, Fusion was born from an artist’s love of sharing their passion with guests, in a relaxing ambiance of exposed red brick walls and high concrete ceilings. Utilising old furniture and timber combined with handmade cutlery and ceramic ware, this tapas bar fuses modern and old world charm in effortless style, whether stopping by for brunch or sharing a drink and plate with friends later in the evening. Choose from tapas plates like braised squid with tomato and lime sauce, crispy chicken goujons with jalapeno mayo and slaw; or perhaps sticky pork ribs and mash. Finish indulgently with chocolate date parfait and crème Anglaise.