Earlier this year, owner Joseph Kim opened the third outpost of Dae Gee, a modern fast-casual Korean barbecue spot in the Baker neighborhood. Only around for five years, the restaurant's rise to popularity was swift. In honor of Barbecue Week, we asked Kim to share the secrets of his success. Here's what he said.
What is the story behind Dae Gee? Well, five years ago I literally jumped into the restaurant industry knowing the most important thing and that was I knew how to eat food really well and enjoyed it. When I tell people that I constantly get the response that I am crazy. I agree that I'm crazy, but sometimes the most phenomenal things happen in those difficult and crazy times. I partnered with the prior chef of Korean garden barbecue at the time and than bought out his portion a year later and than re-branded and did what I felt the restaurant needed. The rest is history and here we are.
Tell us about the name? Daegee which means pig in Korean is about pigging out or pigout!. Doing everything to the maximum whether it's the crazy red mohawk [like the one Kim sports] or having a trendy look to pushing the limits of how things are done.
What is the place all about? Korean barbecue is all about the interactive experience of cooking your own meat at your own barbecue table. Some may say why would I go to a restaurant to cook my own food but once you experience it and experience the family style of Korean culture it is amazing. The friendship you build during shots of soju and feeding each other!
How did you end up in the business? I have been in business all my life. My parents have always had a business from dry cleaners to super markets. I remember as an elementary kid stocking the aisles and helping my parents. In 2003, my father passed away so I moved back from California and the second day jumped into the family dry cleaning business at the age of 21. Never ran a business before or knew what do, but always had the mentality that I will find a way or figure it out.
With three outposts now, what was your expansion strategy? Honestly I didn't have a strategy or expansion plan. It was locations that people told me about and just negotiated the lease and made a deal with the landlords. Moving forward, I can't keep doing that. We'll plan better for future ventures.
Will there ever be more? We are always working on new locations and currently have several in the works so "Coming to a city near you."
How is Korean barbecue the same and how is it different from traditional American barbecue? The similarities are the meats but the technique and result are totally different. Koreans marinade everything where as the american barbecue is smoking.
What about sides - there are so many for Korean barbecue? Literally, if you did an article on Korean side dishes we would sit here for days. In fact, you could probably write a book on it because there are so many. There are restaurants in Korea that only serve side dishes. Literally you get a bowl of rice and 50+ sides.
Why is your Korean barbecue restaurant different from other Korean barbecue restaurants? For the most part, our staff speaks english. That is one huge difference. If you go to any authentic Korean barbecue place English is not the norm. I mean, you can get by with some broken English, but I mean carrying a in depth conversation about life or anything might be hard to come by. Also, we like to pride ourself on being authentic food-wise and being more trendy and having more fun!
What is the one thing that guests should not miss at Dae Gee? The marinaded beef short ribs!