This is Alta, my American grandmother.

I remember sitting in Alta’s kitchen in Mountain Top, Pennsylvania, watching as my grandmother sizzled thick-cut bacon, cracked farm eggs and slicing then toasting the white bread we had made together the evening before. The smell of drip coffee. The sun coming through the trees.

I was a child. My senses were all alive. The smells. Aromas. My grandma.

She loved food. Good food. Not food of the rich. Food of the family. She and the milkman were best friends. The milk he brought then was not pasteurized. Heavy cream on top. I always wanted to shake it!

My grandmother Alta is one of many strong women who have blessed my life. But she was the one who put my hands in dough. In flour. Let me measure the sugar and of course lick the spatula after we made her chocolate cake and frosting. (See Recipes!)

She instilled in me the beauty of not just food but homemade food. She taught my mother, who is Korean, the art of meat and potato cooking. Something my dad was very fond of.

As I grew older, I learned about my Korean heritage through food. My mother had become an amazing American cook. We always ate dinner together as a family. My mom would cook pork roast, meatloaf and of course pan-fried chicken. But she also added Korean touches to every meal. She made her own kimchi and scallion pancakes—which I loved!

After college, I continued to work in restaurants and to learn about food. I even staged for 3 years at a restaurant called Anton’s on Perry and West 4th Street in Manhattan. Anton Linder was a jazz musician who was also a chef, and on Friday nights I would put down my order pad and instead work with him in the kitchen.

He taught me as my grandmother did as a child, although he was a bit tougher. But his lessons in butchering meats, picking choice vegetables and using small farms are all things that live with me each day.

Alta’s Kitchen represents the beauty of my life’s work in food and hospitality. While I never formally trained to be a chef, I worked tirelessly for several great companies in New York City, running the front of house of many restaurants. Learning the intricacies of the financials. Learning the importance of training and teaching. And most of all, the importance of being authentic—both in the food served and in the hospitality given to each guest.

From my table to your table: Cheers.

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