Chef Gerald Drummond is showing Philadelphia that Korean food is more than kimchi.
Starting with lunch and dinner on Friday and going through lunch on Sunday, Granite Hill, located inside the Philadelphia Museum of Art, is having a Korean pop-up restaurant to coincide with its exhibit, “Korean Treasures.” The restaurant will feature a Korean menu highlighting a number of traditional Korean foods with modern influences.
Drummond, who has been at Granite Hill for more than two years, said the Korean exhibition has offered him the first opportunity to collaborate with the rest of the museum staff.
“In my two-plus years here, I’ve had more interaction with the museum’s educational department and the curators than I’ve ever had,” Drummond said. “There just seems to be a nice synergy with us working together.”
Although Granite Hill is primarily a French bistro, most of Drummond’s cooking experience is with Asian cuisine. Having worked at numerous Asian restaurants in the area like Morimoto and Pod, as well as in New York, San Francisco and cities in Mexico, he said he appreciates being able to go back to that style of cooking.
“I haven’t been using [my background in Asian foods] tremendously since I left Morimoto,” Drummond said. “Working here opens up a lot of doors with the different exhibitions that come in, which helps me keep the food constantly changing.”
However, this is Drummond’s first time working exclusively with Korean food and ingredients, so he said he’s making sure to get everything perfect by learning and experimenting.
Whether it’s picking up a couple of Korean cookbooks or visiting some of the big Asian markets in the Delaware Valley, like Assi Plaza in North Wales, Pa., Drummond has been immersed in the world of Korean food to refine the menu’s authenticity.
“If you’re going to do something, you have to be able to know what you’re talking about but also understand the complex flavors that are there,” Drummond said. “If it’s calling for kochujang [red pepper paste], if it’s calling for a certain soy, it’s there 100 percent.”
During an earlier sold-out event in part with the exhibition, Drummond had Marja Vongerichten as a special guest chef for one of Granite Hill’s monthly interactive chef demonstrations. The event is scheduled to air on WHYY on May 2.
Vongerichten, a mixed-Korean adoptee, is a chef who created the show “Kimchi Chronicles” where she was able to go back to Korea and rediscover her early childhood in the form of the food and cooking there.
Her arrival helped spur the enthusiasm for what Korean food and ingredients could offer to the kitchen, not only for Drummond, but for the entire Granite Hill staff.
“They use the word, ‘intense’ – it’s flavorful, it’s bold and it’s very different flavors,” Drummond said.
The process for determining what will be on the Korean menu and how it will be presented has been arduous but necessary, Drummond said. Working in collaboration with other chefs in the company, Drummond refers to it as the “development” of the menu, where they will often redo a food’s presentation or what will be included on the plate.
As busy as he is, Drummond said he’d be bored if he wasn’t. Plus, his move to catering for Granite Hill has given him time to be at home with his 8-year-old daughter. In fact, he will be serving her entire third-grade class on their field trip to the Korean exhibition.
Drummond hopes to do the same for the other visitors as well, introducing them to Korean food they may not be familiar with.
“I know there are people out there when they think Korean, they think kimchi and there’s so much more than kimchi,” Drummond said. “That’s what we’re going to do this week – show people that there’s so much more beyond kimchi.”
Albert Hong can be reached at email@example.com.