When I met Kala for the first time at a friend's house party she literally blew my mind. How did this tiny person create such an opulent thanksgiving feast for 30 people, spread out over an entire table like a beautiful still life? Every dish was so fresh, so desirable, so perfect.
Trained in French cuisine, Kala - known as the kimchi queen of Manhattan—recently made the decision to return to her traditional roots and introduce Korean food to her fellow New Yorkers. The Korean chef hosts classes in kimchi, vegan sushi and dumplings once or twice a week at K. Studio in the Lower East Side, a place that is all about community and experience. And she does it through the purest form of socializing—sharing food and educating yourself as you do.
Kala’s passion is to merge the intellectual and emotional spheres with which she is emotionally connected. She organizes spa and beauty brunches for her wellness-focused friends in order to create a place for relaxation and to fulfill the senses; she has hosted literary dinners to place the dining experience in an intellectual and theoretical, conceptual context.
In her cooking school everybody is treated as an individual, with their on creative outcomes; the food on the plate will be differently executed at the end of each class, even though students are provided with the exact same ingredients and recipes. Her mission is that each cook will inject their creations with their own unique identity.
Kala says that she can cook all day without getting tired. She states that she hopes to live to at least 100 years old in order to continue to cook as long as she can, and to continue to explore new methods, ideas and recipes. A perfect day for her is to experiment in her kitchen for 12 hours non-stop and to then share the food with her friends and family.
Despite her undeniable work ethic, Kala only accepts bookings via referral through friends. What she enjoys the most about her job is the creative freedom to explore new recipes and create plates that equal art. Food is a visual stimulation, which is why she feels drawn to fashion, and dresses like a style icon herself.
Kala starts her days with meditation and yoga, a routine that gives balance to her hectic life as a chef. She sees the key of her own optimism in the ability to empathize and care for others. She considers it a responsibility to teach others how to eat well and take care of themselves, because to her happiness is a recipe of so many components. It starts with feeling comfortable in your own skin, and then builds on that by the appreciation of details. It is usually the most simple things that make people happy. Cooking and sharing a meal is one of them is Kala’s credo.
You may well come across the Kimchi queen with her notebook digging for new recipes and ideas at the Metrograph cinema and restaurant in New York City’s Lower East Side. Kala enjoys her chosen home city, which is a melting pot like no other. NYC is for her not just a food haven but also the most buzzing city on earth. It is a city of multicultural communities, the capital of immigrants and of modern individuals colliding with tradition and newness to create something unique. And Kala is one of its characters to look out for!