Seoul Sausage, One Year After

October 24, 2013
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Seoul Sausage celebrated its first anniversary this month. (Courtesy of www.silentbite.com)

By Lee Kyutae

Time flies when you are having fun making sausages. The culinary reality television show-winning Seoul Sausage turned one-year old earlier this month.

Since the proprietors of Seoul Sausage won ‘The Great Food Truck Race’ on the Food Network and opened their brick-and-mortar restaurant in Little Osaka of West Los Angeles within six days of one another, the one-year anniversary they recently celebrated was technically for both milestones.

The trio of 1.5 generation Korean-American entrepreneurs – the Ted and Yong ‘Kim brothers’ and chef Chris Oh, have started a successful catering company, become reality TV show champs and run a successful restaurant and a food truck, gaining some celebrity status along the way. They won’t reveal much about their future plans, probably due to contractual obligations or out of respect for whomever they may be working with on their next project, but you get the sense there’s plenty in their oven, including the possibility of a second location in downtown Los Angeles and some more television and magazine appearances.

Well, that’s nice, but how much money did they make? Was it worth leaving their advertising agency jobs, against parental advice?

To these blunt questions, Yong answered, “Obviously we made some money, but we are not worried about money right now. Money will be there. For example, people have approached us about franchising, but we’ve refused, because we feel like it’s not a finished product yet. We are so much more than just sausages.” Chris echoed similar sentiments.

Yong then added, “All the good things that have happened to us are nothing we had planned. We’re growing the brand and staying true to ourselves at the same time. You should be able to see how much we believe in our products, and we are enjoying the journey.”

Hearing about some of their experiences, and by looking at what’s been posted on their web site, it’s difficult to argue with their approach. They got to meet and rub elbows with countless luminaries of the culinary world and various celebrities, and even gained their respect in the process. You can’t put a price tag on those kinds of experiences.

$100,000 Scion xB Grilling Machine is always an attraction. (Courtesy www.silentbite.com)

$100,000 Scion xB Grilling Machine is always an attraction. (Courtesy www.silentbite.com)

Celebrity chefs and television personalities such as Bobby Flay and Alton Brown  have not only visited Seoul Sausage Company in person, but they gave rave reviews of what they sampled while there. Just go check out what each of them wrote on their Twitter account after visiting Seoul Sausage Company. Giada DeLaurentiis also gave them the thumbs up.

Catering for big companies like Google and celebrities like Lisa Ling has been a blast also. And if that’s not enough, take a look at their $100,000 Scion xB Grilling Machine.

They’ve been cooking, and it certainly has been one heck of a ride so far.

■SEOUL SEARCHING

Their story began as Chris, the chef of the group, watched Roy Choi of Kogi Truck fame, getting a shout-out on a popular late-night television show. If the galbi taco combination became a hit, “How can I incorporate Korean flavors into familiar forms like a taco?”, he asked himself.

The answer was simple – “I love sausages and I love Korean barbecue, so why not put the two together? Then the next day I went on YouTube, learned how to make sausages, and it kind of just started there.”

Chris now thinks his idea is better, since sausages can be packed and sold in markets.

It wasn’t easy, but when he finally came up with the flavor he wanted – and even his parents liked it – he knew he had something good. Then Ted tried it, and next thing they knew, they were at the Street Food Festival at the Rose Bowl with one of the longest queues for service at the event.

Word spread quickly, and they were soon able to start a catering business. At the time, Ted and Yong were working at advertising agencies. They had to make sausages all night, then go straight to work, and repeat the cycle all over again. It was not a simple task to make hundreds of sausages with a small machine, but they are fond of those memories.

Besides, their client list was ”cool” from the very beginning – Hollywood studios, movie sets, TV filming sets, and so on.

So against their parents’ advice, they left their jobs to open a store on Sawtelle Boulevard in Los Angeles when they got a call from the Food Network’s ‘The Great Food Truck Race’ show. They had sent in an audition tape at the last minute, and their life was about to change.

The Great Food Truck Race is the No. 2 rated show on the Food Network with an average of two million viewers per episode, and to make a long story short, they won the competition. They came back victorious, with a food truck they call ‘Big Mama’ and a $50,000 cash prize.

■SEOUL BROTHERS

Yong(from left) and Ted Kim, and the chef Chris Oh. (Korea Times File)

Yong (from left) and Ted Kim, and chef Chris Oh. (Korea Times File)

Chris Oh, 33, is the man behind the food. Ted Kim, 30, is the front man who’s also in charge of finances, and his brother Yong Kim, 32, handles marketing and sales to complete the Seoul Sausage partnership trifecta.

They were all born in Korea, immigrated at an early age with their parents, and grew up in the Northern California city of Cupertino. They were typical Koreans in the sense that they all majored in economics, presumably to please their parents.

Interestingly, their friendship did not start between Chris and Yong or Chris and Ted, but between Chris’s younger brother Anthony and Ted.  Because Ted and Anthony were such good friends, their families would get together to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner.

One year, Ted said to Chris, “Your mother is such a good cook,” only to find out it wasn’t his mother who prepared the delicious meal but Chris, who had cooked everything from scratch.

Chris is not a classically-trained chef, but he cooked a lot while growing up because his parents were out working, and he happened to like it. He had to put his passion for cooking aside for a while, as that wasn’t what his parents wanted him to do for a living, but he eventually returned to it.

Ted is the front man. He gets things going – to a point where the host of ‘The Great Food Truck Race,’ Tyler Florence, once complimented Ted that he was “the best front man of all three seasons” during the show’s run (which is now in its fourth season). His trick is that he has no shame. Nothing is too embarrassing for him, which proves to be an invaluable asset for running a business.

Last but not least, Yong is the social media guy – absolutely necessary this day and age in any business. This director of sales and marketing’s use of hashtags “is like an art form,” according to his brother Ted.

■SEOUL FOOD

Galbi Poutine(from left), Da KFC, and the Spam Musubi.

Galbi Poutine (from left), Da KFC, and Spam Musubi are on Seoul Sausage’s daily menu.

Their current menu is simple. It consists of only seven items – galbi sausage with kimchi relish and garlic-jalapeno aioli, spicy pork sausage with apple cabbage slaw, Flaming, Lil Osaka, and Spam Musubi deep-fried rice balls, and two specialties in the Galbi Poutine and the cleverly named Da KFC – not Kentucky, but Korean Fried Chicken here.

If you order all seven items, you have yourself a ‘Seoul Pack.’

As Chris would like to tell you, they are much more than sausages. The deep-fried kimchi fried rice ball is something Chris came up with during the food truck race – and was quite a hit. The trio is also very proud of their Galbi Poutine. Traditional Koreans may say it’s on the heavy side and more for Westerners but nevertheless, it’s been voted as the best poutine in Los Angeles.

 

11 Comments

  1. David

    October 23, 2013 at 10:34 AM

    Where is the restaurant in LA?

    • Rucy

      October 23, 2013 at 10:47 AM

      in Little Osaka of West Los Angeles. :D

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