Charlie Cho is the Chef de Cuisine at Chan Seattle. Cho came to Chan as a game developer with no culinary training just looking for a short-term gig to get by. Over four years later, he has worked his way up from prep cook to running the kitchen at Chan Seattle. Here's a bit more background on Chef Charlie.
Where are you from originally?
I'm from Bucheon on the western side of South Korea - kind of between the airport and Seoul. The food there is sort of a blend between Chinese and Korean-styles.
How long have you lived in Seattle and why did you come here?
I came here in 1994 to study when I was in high school. My sister had come to the States before me and she was really enjoying it. She lived with a host family before we all decided to come to Seattle.
After graduating high school, I went to college at the Art Institute in Seattle and majored in Computer Animation. I wanted to do game development and marketing and began to work for a startup marketing company after graduation.
How did you learn to cook?
Well, I got laid off and I needed the money. I was looking for a job and Park had just opened Chan. I'd met him two or three years before he opened the place and one night I came in with friends to have dinner.
Park offered me a job to start doing prep for Bacco Café (upstairs) as a morning job just to make some money and to get by. I'd been thinking about opening a restaurant but I didn't know enough about cooking. I'd done some part time work at other restaurants but needed to learn more.
Why did you decide to stay on vs. going back to be a developer?
After two or three months Park offered me a job to do prep and pantry for Chan. We weren't so busy then and I had some knowledge of Korean cooking (because I'm Korean). I was still looking for a decent job so I decided to go for it.
It was about three or four months later that I started working the line side by side with Park. He taught me a lot and gave me many books to read - but I couldn’t' finish them as I was so tired after work!
How did you end up as the Chef at Chan Seattle?
When Park opened Tray Kitchen back in 2014 I had been here the longest - so I became Chef and started running the kitchen.
What kind of food would you cook if you owned your own place?
Easy, simple, soul food. I'm not really into high-end cuisine - it's just not something that I could see myself doing. I enjoy fine dining and am happy to pay a lot for it but I always leave those restaurants hungry. I don't want to have to have a cheeseburger on the way home after dinner!
So, probably a Korean place or a place that emphasizes Korean culture. I'm still learning and am in the process of figuring out what I'd like to do.
When you go out to eat, where do you like to go?
I like to go to places where I can sit and just be comfortable. I hang out with a group of people and we go to bigger restaurants - often they are Chinese restaurants. I like Top Gun in Factoria and recently I went to La Cocina Oaxacena and really liked it.
What is your favorite ingredient to work with?
Probably pork - I'm more of a pork person. It has a sweeter flavor than beef and I like sweet stuff.
What chefs do you admire other than Park?
(whispers with Park nearby) Gordon Ramsey. I'd never want to work for him but he's entertaining. He seems nice when he's teaching recipes on videos and isn't on TV.
What's your favorite drink?
I love drinking Hefeweizen - or half-beer with a slush of lemon or lime
What's your karaoke song?
People often confuse me with Psy (of Gangnam Style fame) so I try not to sing his songs. Instead - I'll do Boyz II Men!