In honor of Women’s History Month, Total Food Service is celebrating the accomplishments of Suyoung Park, Director of Operations, Jungsik, a Michelin 2-Star restaurant.
In the fall of 2021, Suyoung Park was promoted from Executive Chef to Jungsik’s Director of New York Operations where her leadership skills thrive and attracts the world’s most sophisticated palates to the restaurant’s dining room. Jungsik is not only frequented by top celebrities and athletes, such as Gwyneth Paltrow, who named Jungsik as one of her favorite restaurants in New York, and beloved by native New Yorkers and tourists alike.
While serving as Executive Chef for the prior two years, she led an all-female kitchen to new heights adding her own twists to Jungsik’s acclaimed cuisine. She was recognized for her culinary prowess and named the winner of the Blanc Pain Michelin Guide New York Young Chef Award in May of 2021.
The Michelin Guide’s Point of View about Jungsik:
The cuisine describes itself as “New Korean,” which means it does lean westwards quite considerably; indeed, some of the wonderful sauces turned out of this versatile kitchen wouldn’t be out of place at a grand French table. But what is most impressive here is that the Korean elements of the dishes seem to raise them to another level. Bibimbap composed with gochujang, crispy quinoa and tender Wagyu beef tartare will live long in the memory; while the branzino served simply with white kimchi shows that this is also a kitchen with the utmost confidence in the quality of its ingredients.
This is cooking that is original, impeccably executed and enormously satisfying. It’s the sort of food that makes you involuntarily nod to yourself while you’re eating.
The space is cool, crisp and elegant; the service team sharp, keen and organized. The impressive acreage could make the dining room unwieldy, but it’s divided up into smaller sections so you never feel like you’re rattling around. It also helps that it’s decorated in a sensual and sophisticated way—Jungsik is an immeasurably good looking restaurant, run with the professionalism that its’ cooking demands.
What is it like to be a woman lead in restaurant management?
Jungsik has many woman leaders, so I never really think about the difference between women and men. I grew up with many women leaders so to me, it has more to do with the people and their personality than whether they are a woman or not.
Tell our readers what got you interested in the restaurant industry? Walk us through your career track.
When I was young, my parents both worked, so I had many opportunities to cook for myself. I used to invite my friends over and cook for them too. I was also interested in the artistic side of cooking which led me to want to become a food stylist.
When I was in college studying to be a Food Stylist at Chungkang College of Cultural Industries, our professor took us to Jungsik in Seoul as a surprise and that meal changed my life and made me want to become a chef. I worked at Ms. G’s in Australia, the Millennium Hilton in Seoul and ATOBOY before applying to Jungsik.
Tell us about your responsibilities as Director of Operations.
My first and last responsibility is to run the restaurant well and if I want to do that, I have to make the customer happy and for that I need a good team. If someone wants to come to Jungsik, that means that they are willing to spend quite a bit of money and have high expectations, so we need to make sure they are met.
The second thing is, I need to care of my team. I like to create a friendly environment, so the staff wants to work here, and provide benefits to support them. If I take care of my team, they’re going to take good care of their service and provide a memorable dining experience.
Lessons learned from prior jobs that you’ve brought to the culture at Jungsik?
I learned a lot from the ATO team, who is always trying to make something new and trendy. Their hard work inspires me. I worked with Chef Junghyun Park and he has good, happy energy, which helps to push their team to great heights.
How does being a woman in management make a difference in the industry? Is there more pressure operating a Michelin-starred restaurant?
Being a woman does and it doesn’t make a difference; in my experience its more about the personality of the person and how they work with others. The key part of management is finding a team who you can work well with. My team has been working together for a long time, and it’s important to know that I can count on them. It is a small team but we are very tightly knit and that helps alleviate the pressure.
I have a little added pressure as Director of Operations because I’m relatively new to this position, which is different than working as a chef.
What’s your greatest aspiration?
We’ve earned 2-Michelin stars and aspire to 3 Michelin stars! Our team has great talent, so I really trust them, and I think that the food and the service is definitely Michelin 3-star worthy. I really want to just run the restaurant well, have a friendly environment, and ensure our guests have an excellent experience.
Favorite career accomplishment?
I am a person who likes to take care of others, so I love working with people. I also love the food, and good wine, so this is the perfect job for me. I also love sharing the experience with guests. It’s fun to meet and create relationships with people from all walks of life. That’s what this business is all about.
Last year I was named Michelin Guide’s Blanc Pan New York Young Chef Award winner, which was an incredible accomplishment not only for me but my team as well.
Who were/are your mentors?
Chef Jung Sik Yim really helped make me who I am today. I started as the Commis Chef in Seoul and now I am here as the Director of Operations in New York.
Another mentor is our former Director of New York Operations, Jin Ahn, Co-Owner/General Manager of noreetuh. He’s someone I can look up as a teacher, especially with his experience in the industry.
What do you see ahead for yourself and Jungsik?
In the future, we are trying to host a lot of events and have lots of opportunity for collaborations. This month we are having many wine events, we totally changed our menu and we are trying to change how the food is plated. Our future is very bright.
The business has changed during Covid, talk about the changes that you’ve seen and going forward, what do you expect that to look like? What is needed to completely recover?
During Covid, so many things changed, we did delivery for a while and experimented with outdoor dining for the first time in a tent, even in snowstorms.
I think the business is starting to turn around. A lot of people are enjoying the wine and spending more money; we have a good opportunity to increase our business because of the added outdoor dining. I know that a lot of restaurants closed in the last few years but the industry seems like it’s turning a corner.
It was very difficult, especially at the end of 2021 but our team is very loyal and strong so they were able to help us survive when we were in a bind and couldn’t find new staff. It has been easier to hire so far this year because the new class of culinary school graduates do graduate every January. Curating a friendly environment helps to retain staff and hire new staff, and we are lucky to have the 2-Michelin stars because it helps to attract recent graduates who want to work with us to advance their careers.
What might people underestimate about the operations at Michelin recognized/starred restaurants?
A lot of people may not realize how important every detail is. Even the smallest mistake or miscommunication can negatively impact a client’s experience and since they expect the best from us, we owe it to them to make sure that we are on top of everything.
To learn more about Suyoung Park and Jungsik, visit their website