Chef Judy Joo on navigating the food industry

A woman in a kitchen wearing an apron smiling at the camera

London-based, Korean-American chef and author Judy Joo shares her recipe for Korean fried chicken as she chats to Soho House Chicago Sous Chef, Kamat Newman. They discuss the joys of cooking, creating new recipes, and the challenges of being a woman in a male-dominated industry.

Video by Nick Korompilas

Kamat Newman: What inspires you in your career?
Judy Joo: ‘I am inspired to persevere, because I have no choice. I don’t quit and I refuse to quit. I think that’s my personality – no matter what I’m going to do, I’m just going to give it my all. And in any journey towards success, there’s going to be more stories of failure – it’s just part of life and part of the adventure. So, get used to failure – embrace it and learn from it. Use it to your advantage. Every experience in life is a growing one and you gain wisdom.’

KN: What difference have you noticed when cooking abroad?
JJ: ‘The biggest one is that there are definitely cultural differences, particularly in countries where women are still somewhat second-class citizens. It’s interesting just trying to get stuff done and tell people what to do. A lot of young chefs – men in particular – are not used to having a female boss in general and that makes for an interesting dynamic.’

KN: Have you always felt you could be yourself in a traditionally male-dominated industry?
JJ: ‘I often get told “you don’t look like a chef” and I’m always puzzled by that, because what is a chef supposed to look like? When I tell people that I competitively cook on TV, they assume I was hosting – they don’t think I can actually cook. You’re always second guessing for some reason.’
KN: Where and when do you feel most passionate about your work?
JJ: ‘My passion probably comes through the most in my culinary career. With all the different hats that I wear, the strongest is with menu creation, recipes, and new dishes. I love writing and combining new flavours as it’s ultimately creating new memories.’
KN: What would be your three tips for aspiring female chefs?
JJ: ‘Firstly, education. It’s actually really important to get good communication skills, both written and spoken. Second would be hard work. It’s going to be blood, sweat, and tears. And lastly, persevere and have an intrepid formidable spirit.’
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