Clara Kleindorfer and Kathleen Chen
Chef Kang Sul Box: Out of the Box Korean American Cuisine
Worn out after a summer of quarantining? Feeling robbed of being able to travel? Looking for some semblance of normalcy after perhaps the craziest year that any of us have ever experienced? Chef Kang Sul Box may be the answer for you. Their warmly lit tents lining the streets of Los Angeles’s Ktown provides a Korean pocha experience that will transport you directly to the streets of Korea. Join us today as we get to know the man behind the Korean fusion cuisine: John Kang, also known as Chef Kang.
Chef Kang first opened Chef Kang Sul Box in February of 2020 following the success of his previous restaurant Chef Kang Food Rehab that opened in January of 2018. He identifies as Korean American and attributes much of his success to both his loving mother and wife who supported his desire to open a restaurant despite working as a mortgage broker for 16 years.
Although Korean food is very popular now, it was not always the case. Chef Kang reflects on his experience growing up around people who put Korean food down, trying to belittle it with racist remarks, making it all the more special that Korean food is now well known and loved by Koreans and non-Koreans alike.
“I believe love of Korean food lets people from other nationalities know what Korean culture is all about and made us closer to each other.”
Beyond sharing Korean food, Chef Kang has always been passionate about his Korean-American identity. As a child, he was picked on every day and berated with “so many Asian racial words that really hurt my feelings.” This has changed as Los Angeles has become increasingly diverse. While the racism he experiences has diminished, it has not completely disappeared. Despite the attacks that he endured due to his Korean heritage, Chef Kang has always considered himself Korean American. He says, “I consider myself Korean American, which means I’m very proud of my Korean heritage combined with ideas and beliefs as an American made me two times stronger with the goodness from both cultures.” This dual heritage is reflected in the menu at Chef Kang Sul box, which features both traditional Korean cuisine and Korean fusion dishes.
Aside from his positive outlook on life, Chef Kang’s cuisine also stands out due to his background in art. He tells us, “plates are my canvas now. My background interest and talent in art allows me to create dishes that are appetizing to the eyes as well as
flavors. I believe people eat food with their eyes first and I can express my artistic skill on a plate and on my menu.”
Like many of us, Chef Kang was deeply impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. “It changed everything, the way I run my business, retraining my staff, the way we make and serve food, take extra precautions, and even how we market ourselves. It almost feels like we are in a whole different world.” Beyond how the virus has affected his restaurant, Chef Kang also reflects on how it has impacted society. “It’s really sad that something like COVID is breaking us up. Fear and lack of truth are causing more racism among us, I feel very concerned and even worried that this will continue even after COVID is gone.”
Despite the challenges, Chef Kang has no regrets. “Just being open is a blessing,” he says. He hopes that other restaurant owners will quickly adapt to survive this harsh climate. Chef Kang believes that food is a very important aspect of knowing other cultures, and to lose that is a loss for us all. We know that the pandemic won’t last forever, and Chef Kang has big plans for the future! He plans to open a chain of Korean fusion restaurants with a new-age menu that people from all cultures can really enjoy. It will be Korean American food. “Not American, not Korean, but Korean American food.”
Visit Chef Kang Sul Box!
Location: 3881 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90010
Phone: (213) 302-2622
Delivery: Grubhub, Postmates, Ubereats