Home food is a very important part of Korean cuisine and in the last few years we have witnessed the opening of many restaurants in Korea that offer comfort home dishes. Today we interviewed Pak Mogua, one of the owner of PARC, a restaurant opened in 2012 and one of the first in Seoul offering home food to their costumers in a welcoming and modern atmosphere.
“The main reason why I opened this restaurant is because I wanted to preserve my mother’s recipes keeping and sharing them before they are lost.”
The name of the restaurant comes from Parc from Catalan language. Why choosing the name?
I am from Park family. While I was traveling in Europe, in Spain in particular I found this word Parc and I thought I would use this word one day. In that period I was working on this restaurant project, a restaurant where I would serve home food and using my family name for the restaurant seemed to be the right choice. So I choose this word Parc that resembled my name. Many people in Korea ask me why I chose this name for the restaurant: this created a lot of attention and curiosity about the restaurant and helped spread its name around.
How did your interest in food and cooking started?
My mother is a great cook and she took her food very seriously. I grew up with this. When I grew older and started traveling around I loved to visit new restaurants and for many years I expanded my taste by trying new flavors. My interest in the food business became bigger and dreamed of opening my own restaurant some day. The main reason why I opened this restaurant is because I wanted to preserve my mother’s recipes and keeping them before they are lost. During that time I met my partner, who owned this space. We discussed about my dream of opening this restaurant and we decided to open Parc and use my mother’s recipes.
Apparently Mother’s food is often considered the best in a lot of cultures. Have you adapted your mother’s recipes, by giving them a modern twist? After you established a certain consistency and quality of your mother’s recipes, did you also updated them by using other ingredients, techniques and so on?
We hired young chefs and my mom was showing how to cook her recipes. We prepared for almost six months before opening this place. As the name of the restaurant says “Parc – mother’s recipes and more” I also wanted to give room to my chefs to create and experiment. Our team of ten young chefs from different backgrounds in Parc and they have the opportunity of creating and mixing with my mother recipes. All these experience can create some new dishes.
What is the process of creating new dish and adding it to the menu?
Me and my chefs discuss the idea of introducing some new ingredients for a new recipe. They make several different samples using these new ingredients. We taste them together and decide which dish can match our concept.
This place was available before you opened the restaurant, did you choose this place also because of the neighborhood? (Itaewon/Hannam dong) – a modern and international area of Seoul.
Yes, before coming back to Korea I lived two years in Thailand and then moved to Taiwan. When I decided to open the restaurant it was a good time to come back home. During that same time, one of my friends was opening a bar nearby and I discovered this place and liked the neighborhood. I wanted to be in the international neighborhood but this area where the restaurant is also a bit hidden and in an area where there are not many Korean restaurant. I thought it would be a good option for people to find Korean food in the international area of Seoul (where there are many foreign cuisine restaurants) and in a quiet spot.
Have you experienced Korean food abroad? What do you think?
Yes. Localization is very important but in a lot of cases localization have ruined the original taste. When I was living in Thailand and tried Korean food there, was not interesting Korean food. It was typical Korean dishes that you can find everywhere else. Why they wouldn’t do something different? I think they follow some rules, a safe zone, using standard and very well known Korean dishes to be sure it works. A kind of stereotypical Korean food.
I understand what you mean, I feel the same about Italian restaurants abroad. In many occasions Italian food abroad is stereotyped and outdated. You will find always the same kind of food and environment everywhere else
I think Korean food and Italian food abroad have the same problem. On the other hand in US the new generation of Korean-American chefs are experimenting more.
When you go out for dinner in Seoul, where do you usually go?
I usually go for very local Korean food, like small naengmyeon (noodles soup) places, very traditional places. Also there are very good Pizza restaurants around year so me and my staff often have pizza.
What are the future plans for Parc?
We really want to make this restaurant fun, so we have already the original recipes and we have been running this restaurant for three years. I want to make this a long term business, so we plan to keep Parc updated and do something meaningful with our young chefs.