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Conversations with the Inspiring Jennifer Kim

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jennifer Kim.

Jennifer, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Food was an integral part of my family but it didn’t become an integral part of my own personal life until my mid-twenties. After a brief stint in pharmacy school, I was sort of drifting through life trying to figure out where I was headed. My interests had always gravitated towards science, so when Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking finally found its way into my hands, I was so enamored with the scientific aspects of cooking that it became the catalyst into a career I am still to this day falling in love with.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Every day is a new struggle and a new opportunity to learn; the roadway is never going to be smooth all the way through and that challenge is partly what makes this profession so rewarding.  The most important thing is to be able to differentiate between overcoming positive challenges versus overcoming unnecessary hardships.  This industry, as well as many others, glorifies those who overcome and succeed against great hardships, traumas and injustices in the name of human resilience.  It can lead us to believe that these trials and tribulations are a right of passage and are looked up to as feats of aspiration, when we really should be focusing on dismantling the villainous constructs that are forcing those hardships in the first place.  Understanding the difference between the challenges that shape us into stronger people and the oppression that forces us to be strong has been the most liberating part of where I am now.

What should we know about Passerotto? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
The thing that I am most grateful for is the ability to share a part of my life that has been an evolving story–of what has shaped me into the person I am today.  How we connect to each other through food has been a longstanding interest and the fact that I am able to pursue that through my own personal lens of Korean cooking surrounded by a community of people who I deeply care about has been so rewarding and humbling.

Do you have a lesson or advice you’d like to share with young women just starting out?
Never accept less than what you know you deserve. Not everyone may see your worth, not everyone may create opportunities for your career advancement, not everyone may treat you with the same respect they will give to others; you may get passed up for promotions, you may get overlooked based on your perceived gender, sexuality or identity because of the heteronormative patriarchal culture that kitchens keep breeding for the next generation. DO NOT ACCEPT THIS AS THE NORM. Do not shrug your shoulders and say, “well, that’s just how it is.” That is not how it’s supposed to be and we have the right to call out against those who foster toxic work cultures. There will be folks who will tell you that success comes from pulling our own selves up by the bootstraps, but not all of us have bootstraps–fuck, some of us don’t even have boots.  The best advice I could offer for the future generation of young chefs, especially those in marginalized and under-represented communities, is to make a concerted effort to find a mentor, find kitchens, find people, find environments that want to create opportunities for you to grow, the rest is up to you.

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Image Credit:
Mistey Nguyen

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