Q&AZN: Banana Mag Pays a Visit to Kichin
In celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, editors Kathleen Tso and Vicki Ho of Banana Magazine are taking over Milk with eight different features, highlighting some of their community’s best and brightest creatives. Next up? Bryan Moon and Hoon Smith of Kichin.
Bryan Moon and Hoon Smith are the chefs and masterminds behind Kichin, a local Brooklyn-based Korean American food joint with spam musubis and fried chicken that will haunt your taste buds for more. Currently in residence at Baby’s All Right, Bryan and Hoon have built up an incredible portfolio of partnered events within the Asian community in a pop-up style format, from working with Bubble T and musician Yaeji, to Banana too! You can catch Bryan and Hoon’s delicious Korean American fried chicken featured in our issue 004 “In the Mood for Fried Chicken” editorial and read further on how the Kichin boys stay connected to their heritage.
What is your heritage?
Bryan Moon: Korean.
Hoon Smith: I’m a Korean American adoptee.
Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
BM: Growing up, I moved around a lot until my mother remarried, at which point we settled in a small town called Verplanck in New York where I spent the majority of my childhood. I currently live in Brooklyn.
HS: I moved a few times as a kid. I first lived in Baltimore then jumped around the Midwest, parts of Illinois and Minnesota, then Upstate New York, finally here in Brooklyn.
Who is an APA creative that you look up to?
BM: It would probably have to be Daewon Song. The fact that he can remain so positive after the things he experienced in his childhood really motivate me to remain positive and lead a similar lifestyle.
HS: Funnily enough I think David Chang’s Momofuku cookbook was one of my first real introductions to Asian ingredients and cooking. He was the first Asian American I was exposed to that sort of just made whatever he wanted to and had the confidence/talent/good fortune to be successful doing that which I still think is badass.
How has your heritage played a part in your passions and in your work?
BM: My heritage was something that I rarely considered when it came to my own passions or work, nor did I ever feel the need to bring my heritage into the things I am passionate about. Even with the start of Kichin, we simply did what came naturally to us, it wasn’t about fitting into a narrative. However, Kichin has definitely made me look closer at my identity, and where I come from. You’ll find pieces of Korean identity within the food which is exactly how I feel as a Korean-American.
HS: I grew up pretty far removed from any aspect of Korean culture so learning and making Korean dishes with ingredients I hadn’t used before was really exciting when we first started the Kichin project. Cooking and sharing meals like that is probably the most tangible way I’ll ever be able to reconnect with that thread of Korean heritage.
When was the first time you realized, through your career or your passions, you connected with your heritage and felt that sense of pride?
BM: I grew up in my step-father’s Taekwondo school with no freedom to do anything else other than study. I went straight to Taekwondo after school every day, and on the weekends, my step-father would make my siblings and I train for hours on end. Somewhere along the line, the contempt I held for training turned into a deep sense of pride. Taekwondo is my own special connection to my heritage.
HS: I don’t think there was a singular moment; it was an accumulation of small things. I grew up in mostly all white spaces so for me it was about getting better acquainted with being Korean American and building a sort of loose community here.
What are you gearing up for right now in your career? Plug in what you got going on right now!
BM: I am currently looking to open up a Korean fried chicken joint!
HS: Kichin at Baby’s All Right! We’re on the lookout for our own brick and mortar, but for now just keep operations smooth. We have a few summer bangers coming together, so keep your eyes out for that!
Stay tuned to Milk for more from Banana Magazine.