Chingu/Sura Eats’ Keeyoung Kim discusses visions of a thriving multi-cultural hub in The Pitch Questionnaire
Keeyoung Kim has been establishing himself as a member of the Kansas City community since he moved here in 2015. He owns Sura Eats, located inside Parlor KC, and he is currently in the process of opening Chingu, a bar and restaurant in Westport with a coffee extension in West Plaza.
Engaging KC with Korean food and culture serves as an homage to the friends and family that shaped Kim. He seeks to fill the gaps to help sustain KC as a vibrant, multicultural hub.
Hometown: Rockville, MD
Current Neighborhood: Near Union Station
The Pitch: What brought you to Kansas City?
Keeyoung Kim: Someone had convinced me to join in on a business venture (a coffee shop) in 2015. I was transitioning out of my job back in Maryland around that time, so in January 2016, I moved to Kansas City.
What does Kansas City need more of?
I love to see minority-owned businesses open up and thrive, so it would be awesome to see more and more people representing their families, traditions, cultures, and stories through business. I would love to see a Chinatown-esque part of town; a concentrated area in KC with restaurants that represent countries all over Asia—I would definitely want to be a part of that.
What’s your go-to place for dinner in Kansas City?
My wife and I enjoy eating frozen food and snacking… a lot. But if we’re going out, we want to support industry friends—Waldo Thai, Corvino, Anousone, Providence Pizza, and so many more.
What do food and cooking mean to you?
It’s a connection with my family. It reminds me of everything near and dear to my heart, especially moving away from my family, friends, and the large Korean community that I grew up with. It also means new connections by sharing with others the things that are important to me.
Currently, what’s your relationship like with cooking at home?
Very minimal unless it’s experimenting with a new dish, cooking for guests, or making a new dish out of leftovers (because I usually want something different).
You’re introducing Korean food to KC with Sura Eats and expanding your influence with Chingu. How has Korean food been received by the KC community?
It’s been amazing – I’ve been overwhelmed with the love and support. I can’t take credit for KC’s FIRST introduction to Korean food but our hope is always to engage with our customers to spark more curiosity about Korean food and culture.
What do you want Kansas City residents to understand about Korean cuisine and culture?
Korean food is as much a representation of an individual family as it is of general culture. Kimchi will taste drastically different from family to family. My mom’s bulgogi will not have all the same marinade components or ratios as [insert famous Korean chef here]. Lots more to say here, but that’s part of our journey we’re excited to go on with KC.
Tell us about your journey from owning pop-ups to an impending full-service bar & restaurant.
I don’t think things ever went according to plan, but I believe they played out exactly how it was supposed to. It took us six years to open our full-service restaurant and bar, and everything we’ve been through led us to where we are now.
What drives you, and what grounds you?
Faith, family, and friends.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Stop trying to control everything.
You have a long-term business partnership with David Son. What makes you two compatible?
Our individual skill sets cover a wide range of the needs of the business. We also share similar values, like how important our staff is to us, among many other things.
Who inspires you within the Kansas City food community?
All of the industry workers who are hustling day in and day out to provide great products and services.
Tell me about some of your favorite KC food and beverage collaborations. Do you have any collab fantasies?
The collab dinners with City Barrel and the AAPI dinners were really fun. We did a bulgogi wood-fired pizza with Providence Pizza years ago that was very delicious. A canned soju/beer and soju/cocktail collab would be really fun.
What are your thoughts on the growing popularity of fermented foods?
Love it—happy guts, happy people. It’s very cool to see preservation methods of old become popularized and, with science, prove that these foods are generally great for our health.