For most parents, a visit to a fine dining restaurant like Georgetown’s 1789 is a treat. For chef Samuel Kim, it’s just another day on the job. A DMV native, Chef Kim started his career at 1789 before spending several years in the Big Apple refining his skill at gourmet mainstays like Per Se, Jean Georges, and Colicchio & Sons. In 2014, Kim returned to 1789 as Executive Chef. Soon after, he met another milestone: becoming a dad. Chef Kim shares his experience balancing his culinary career and fatherhood as well as a special recipe for the tiniest of gourmands.
You started your culinary career at 1789 and spent several years moving up the ranks of New York’s dining scene. What brought you back to the District?
Washington, D.C. will always be home. It’s where my parents and sister live, and the area where I grew up as a kid. While I technically still live in New York (my wife and daughter still reside just outside New York City), I chose to come down here because of the support I knew I would receive with the Clyde’s Restaurant Group (CRG). I came back to DC was because I knew with CRG’s support, I could do great things at 1789.
1789 is known as an “old guard” Washington restaurant. How do you balance tradition and innovation in your work as Executive Chef?
It has been something that I have tried to embrace. 1789 will always be considered the place to celebrate family occasions and holidays. I, more than anyone, appreciate the role this restaurant plays for Washington, DC because my own family celebrated multiple graduations and big birthdays at the restaurant. So instead of trying to completely remake 1789, I have just tried to expand the opportunities people would consider visiting. I really feel that you can come in any night, without having something special to celebrate, and get a fantastic experience at the restaurant.
In addition to being a chef, you’re also a father and husband. When you’re not at the restaurant, what’s your favorite meal to cook up for your crew?
We do not eat fancy at my house. The style of food I cook at home is so much different than what I serve at the restaurant. At home, we eat a lot of homey food which many times centers on Korean food. Really, more the style of food that would be served at my mother’s table and not a table in 1789. I recently made this deep, rich bone broth. After the broth is made, I use it as the liquid to cook rice in. This not only imparts great flavor to plain rice, but also injects it with all the nutrients you would normally get from bones:
2 pounds oxtail
1 pound daikon radish
¼ pound kombu
2 gallons water
Place oxtails overnight in ice water to draw out blood and impurities. Drain from water and place bones into a pot. Fill with cold water to cover and slowly bring to a boil. This first blanching stage will pull out more impurities that exist in the bones. Strain out bones and all liquid from pot. In a new clean pot, place bones and refill with cold water. Bring to a boil and then drop to a low simmer. Cook gently for six hours until meat falls off oxtail bones. Take out bones and pick meat. In stock, add remaining ingredients and cook for another hour. Strain liquid and reserve.
After the rice is cooked, I add a fine dice of sauteed carrots, onions, squash, edamame, and mushrooms to the cooked rice. My daughter gobbles it up.
Chef’s schedules tend to be erratic. When you’re free, where does your family head for fun?
This is especially true for me. Considering I’m only back at home two days a week, I really cherish the time I get with my wife and baby daughter. A big part of our free time is spent going out to a restaurant to grab a bite. And now that my daughter is getting older, hanging out in the park with her is a favorite pastime of ours.
What do you like the most about being a parent in DC?
While my family is still in New York, having grown up in the area, I like the exposure D.C. gives in the mix of people, thoughts, and customs. The city is so transient, you will meet so many new people from all walks of life. Furthermore, having grown up in Maryland, I love the mix of suburban/city life you can find here.
Do you know any cool D.C. parents doing really cool stuff? Tell us about them in the comments below.