In early May in front of the New York Maritime Museums along the Hudson River in Manhattan, dozens of people were queuing up in front of a tiger-striped truck. Bearing the name Korilla BBQ, it offers a peculiar fusion cuisine and is run by three second-generation Korean-Americans.
Edward Song, who majored in finance at Columbia University, and his two friends offer Porkinator, a taco made with pork and kimchi, and Wonder Bird, a taco with chicken and kimchi. Korilla BBQ has over 18,000 followers on Twitter.
Korean cuisine was first introduced to the U.S. by first-generation Korean immigrants, and now their children are having fun reimagining it. Many of these successful second-generation Korean cooks are young, business-minded graduates of prestigious universities. They strictly try to approach Korean food from American point of view and reinvent it to appeal to the taste of local people.
Philip Lee, a 1.5-generation Korean-American who operates another Korean food truck in New York -- the Kimchi Taco -- has a master's degree in hospitality management from Cornell University. He worked as a general manager at a famous restaurant in New York until he opened his own stall in 2010.
"Americans admit that Korean food is tasty, but they don't know how to eat it. I started Kimchi Taco to let them know that Korean food too can be easy and fun," he said. His Kimchi Taco can be held in one hand like a hot dog, and therefore fits the ambulatory lunch habits of busy New Yorkers.
Debbie Lee is a second-generation Korean-American chef who runs Korean pub Ahn-joo in Los Angeles and has published a Korean cookbook titled "Seoultown Kitchen." It was nominated for the James Beard Foundation Awards, seen as the Oscars for cookbooks. Hooni Kim is the chef-owner of Danji, the first Korean restaurant ever to receive a Michelin star, and Akira Back is a chef at Yellowtail Japanese Restaurant and Lounge in Bellagio, Las Vegas.
On May 20, the Korean Chef Association of America, consisting of 70 young second-generation Korean-American chefs working in the U.S., was launched.