Features 2 minutes 17 March 2024

Busan, Seoul, and Sydney represented on the plates of newly starred restaurant Palate

Chef Kim Jae-hoon of restaurant Palate in Busan, which got its first star in the inaugural Michelin Guide Busan released in February, uses food to represent the characters of the different cities in which he spent time cooking.

Winning a star on the Michelin Guide was never his ultimate goal, but it instantly pushed chef Kim Jae-hoon of Palate up from a low point. He won his first Michelin star in February, and the gastronomic guide has allowed him to continue doing what he feels passionate about.

“If it weren’t for this star, I might have given up on pursuing a chef career,” said Kim, sharing his struggle to keep the business afloat since he opened his restaurant in December 2019, about a month before Covid-19 hit Korea.

“The guide has set the stage for me,” he said. “Just like an athlete playing a game without an audience, chefs without diners don’t feel a lot of excitement. I had been trying everything to make what I do as a business viable, but now, since the Michelin Guide came out, I’ve been put on the stage and I can think more about the performance I’m going to give.”

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Restaurant service is all about catering to the needs and wants of diners and it became possible for him to do just that, which is what he has longed for since he started working as a chef.

Yet ironically, being a chef was never his dream when he was young. He chose it because he wanted to have a career with a professional skill set.

He started to work at restaurants when he was 25. Until then he had been working as a DJ at a club and majoring in Chinese language at college. As he worked part-time at local restaurants in Korea, he was often told he was too old to change fields, and scolded for asking too many questions about why certain things are cooked in certain ways.

He decided to move to Australia in 2011 to go to a culinary school and work. His father’s passing about a year into his life in Australia gave him an even bigger momentum that he had to make it work there before heading back to his home country.

During the seven years he spent there, he had come up with the very basics of what he could call his style of cooking. A Japanese chef he met while working at the Italian restaurant Lumi in Sydney is the person Kim calls his mentor. He learned to be free from stereotypes and learned how to put together layers of flavors to make the final taste more complete.


A pie with radish he uses at Palate now showcases all the skills he learned there. He makes chicken stock with radish first, and then puts another chicken and radish in the stock to make the final stock thicker and more flavorful. And then he uses that to make a radish pie.

“I don’t necessarily try to represent the flavors of Busan,” said Kim.

“I wanted to reflect my life’s journey in my food and what I do happens to be in my hometown of Busan.”

Before coming back to Busan to open his own restaurant, he made a living in Seoul working as a sous chef at the one-Michelin-starred Zero Complex.

While many look for bustling beach areas like Haeundae or Gwangalli when opening a restaurant, Kim found a place in Yongho-dong, the western part of Busan, about 30 minutes away from the main Haeundae Beach. The area has piers with lots of yachts and a view of the surrounding tall apartment buildings.

“Palate is a place where my experiences as a chef are shared,” said Kim. “I’m going to continue break free of pre-existing ideas and prejudices, sharpen the skills I have acquired, and bring forth new ideas with things I get to experience in Busan.”


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